Memia 2020.33: Zeroes0️⃣to heroes🦸(for now)⏱️// filling the void📖// a horrible experiment🧪// infinite office♾️

[Makes "You're on mute" gesture]🔇

I’m Ben Reid and each week I pull together the Memia newsletter, a scan across unfolding futures and emerging tech, 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 (~28% of openers) was the apocalyptic San Francisco skyline set to Bladerunner 2045 soundtrack. Glad to hear skies have cleared a bit since then.

One correction to last week’s newsletter: the new Mandatory Climate Change Financial Disclosure proposal was actually a New Zealand Government announcement, not a Green Party one (fronted by James Shaw during election season, confusing…!). The news has since garnered praise as a world first from international climate change experts.

Zeroes0️⃣to heroes🦸(for now)⏱️

Reasons to be [temporarily*] cheerful: Aotearoa appears to have eliminated Covid-19 from community transmission twice(!) following a week of *mostly zero* daily new community cases inside the border. Restrictions eased to Level 1 around the country and Level 2 for Auckland from tonight. Nice work people.

(Thanks to Memia reader Mike Riversdale for these handy daily bilingual charts on Twitter:)

Image

Time now to settle in for the long game…“normal” is not coming back:

  • While the electioneering continues about AoNZ’s border quarantine policy and how long it can be expected to last, Covid-19 numbers continue to rise globally with second waves now in evidence in the UK, Spain, France and a “third wave” in Iran.

  • *It is almost inevitable that Covid will get back in through AoNZ’s border multiple times…and maybe next time (or the time after that…) elimination won’t be successful.

  • Future lockdowns or not, people and organisations will continue to make adjustments to lifestyles, business models, work and social patterns to provide resiliency against future outbreaks.

“These observations suggest that we cannot assume COVID-19 vaccines, even if shown to be effective in reducing severity of disease, will reduce virus transmission to a comparable degree. The notion that COVID-19-vaccine-induced population immunity will allow a return to pre-COVID-19 “normalcy” might be based on illusory assumptions.”

Filling the void📖

After I wrote at length last week about the lack of tech policies from the major political parties, the National Party released one on Monday (I claim no credit🤨):

National’s proposals include:

  • A new “Minister for Technology”

  • Increasing home-grown skills and a fast-track technology skills visa to attract talent from overseas

  • Upgrading infrastructure to 100Mbps internet speeds as standard on fibre and rural broadband

  • Launching 3 new targeted capital investment funds

  • “Tech-friendly regulation” to attract R&D

Total policy costed at NZ$690M over 4 years. (Still small beer).

Now….which party is next?

A horrible experiment🧪

We’ve been saturated with discussions on machine learning algorithm bias for years now… and the techniques to detect and mitigate bias are well documented. So when something like this turns up front and centre of the Twitter platform, in the middle of a US Presidential election campaign and racially-driven civil unrest, it’s jaw-dropping (click for full thread):

(That smile though…)

Twitter’s official response “didn’t find evidence…in our testing” (😱) and open sourcing the model for review:

This is all around us and we don’t see it. Eyes wide open.

[Weak] signals

Memia’s weekly collection of signals from near and far futures:

Geopolitics:

Hydrogen energy:

  • A new industry partnership has been established in Scotland to create green hydrogen production facilities with clusters of refuelling stations across the country, supporting national efforts to achieve net zero by 2045:

Plastic pollution:

  • Research by Winnie Lau et al. published in Science Magazine models interventions to reduce plastic pollution: Even in the best case scenario, huge quantities of plastic will still accumulate in the environment. They recommend that coordinated global action is urgently needed to avoid a massive build-up of plastic worldwide.

Robotics:

Boston Dynamics Has Near Future Plans for Logistics Robots, Reveals CEO

Race for space:

Future of farming?

  • 12-storey pig farms…

AR/VR:

  • ♾️Last week’s Facebook launched several VR and AR products including Infinite Office:

    • Ross Dawson provides more colour on the reality of virtual reality:

“…While the [Quest 2] screen resolution is 50% higher than the original Quest, it is still just 3.5 Megapixels per eye, which while getting decent is not enough to get great resolution when viewing multiple screens in VR. The Quest 2 battery only last for 2 and a half hours, which means the office can’t easily be used through the day.”

Mind expanding

Intellectual investigation this week:

Rollcall

  • I’m looking forward to spending some time working remotely *and* meeting other attendees at the first RemoteTogether “festival of flexible working” in Queenstown 2nd-13th November. $175 early birds still available.

Hidden gems

Distracting me in the last week:

  • Real history…

  • …Alternative history…

"Given Earth’s rotational speed, if the [ancient dinosaur-killing] asteroid had hit 30 minutes earlier or later, scientists believe it would have made a much less consequential impact [and] there might still be dinosaurs today, but no humans."

Source: new book A Series of Fortunate Events

  • 🔇Love this from Cameron Hunter, an essential new feature for all VC platforms (needs “you’re on mute” gesture):

  • Finally, you may already be familiar with the stunning night sky photography of Dunedin’s Ian Griffin - this is a recent highlight:

🙏🙏🙏 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

Ben