Memia 2020.34: Disunited states🧨// patient China🐼// all-weather companies🌩️// virtual facemasks👓😷// bionic piano gloves🦾🎹🧤
Shout out to all the palm tree trimmers🌴😵
I’m Ben Reid and each week I pull together this 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 (~20% of openers) was Cameron Hunter’s rather nifty videoconferencing gestures.
Recent informed commentary points to an increasingly fragile US, with broad implications for all of us who live within its sphere of influence.
Attention is turning to the seemingly inevitable possibility of a contested US presidential election result and the resulting fallout:
Published early online by the Atlantic: What if Trump refuses to concede?
US writer Dr Sarah Kendzior, author of new book Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, spoke to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan: Donald Trump's rise to power and the vulnerability of American democracy
Even more visceral, Mike Selinker, a professional “wargame designer” (where does one apply?), defines four possible post-election civil war scenarios and their historical echoes:
Scenario #1: Biden blowout (rhymes with…the American Civil War)
Scenario #2: A close Biden win (…the Russian Revolution)
Scenario #3: A contested result (…The Irish War of Independence)
Scenario #4: A Trump Win (…The Rwandan Civil War😨)
Yes, conjecture and imagined scenarios at this point… but gripping reading, particularly given:
“What makes [civil war] likelihood greater is that the U.S. has 393 million guns—more than it has people. Of those, only a million are registered. Gun sales went stratospheric this year. Whether because of fears of COVID, rioters, or a Trump invasion of the cities, people stocked up. In the month of July alone, Americans bought 3.6 million guns, per FBI background checks. We don’t know how many were bought without those checks.”
What changes will ripple around the world if the world’s pre-eminent nuclear superpower descends into civil war? Cue…
…Aotearoa’s largest trading partner continues to patiently position itself strategically, asserting influence on many fronts:
Useful summary from CNN of the multiple territorial disputes which China is currently engaged in:
More positively, this week China announced its policy to become Carbon Neutral before 2060. This is huge news from the world’s largest CO2 emitter, but the path to implementation is vague.
Updated coverage of Chinese developments in sovereign digital currency known as Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), now being tested in four cities:
RNZ: Law firm Bell Gully’s cryptocurrency expert Campbell Pentney talked to Kathryn Ryan about China’s quiet digital currency revolution
This has potentially monumental outcomes for international money markets if DCEP scales inside China and outside (through coercive foreign lending terms, for example…)
As I’ve previously written, I’m firmly of the belief that AoNZ needs to be among countries co-investing in sovereign digital currency infrastructure to maintain control and take cost out of domestic payments, banking and welfare distribution systems. But no word from the Reserve Bank since last year?
For an alternative keynote on China, (and yes, Australia’s ABC isn’t exactly objective on the subject…) the article linked below discusses ongoing internal discontent with Xi’s authoritarian regime…
I keep coming back to structure: over-centralised system architectures are brittle by nature…
Speaking of brittleness vs. resilience, in its recent study Becoming an All-Weather Company, BCG Henderson Institute examined the performance of ~1,800 US companies from 1995 to 2020 to understand the long term value of resilience, particularly in light of this year’s Covid-19 pandemic. Their findings:
Crisis periods have a disproportionate effect on long-run outperformance.
The deeper the crisis, the greater the value of resilience.
Outperformance is driven primarily by withstanding the immediate impact.
Most paths to long-term success leverage resilience.
Having watched businesses and communities come through several unexpected major economic shocks (the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-2011 in particular) this rings true to me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…
This week: (space)planes, (sea)weeds and virtual facemasks…
Space planes: Virgin Galactic are getting closer to joining SpaceX putting humans into orbit:
Carbon neutral planes: Airbus unveiled three new zero-emission concept aircraft:
(Image credit: Airbus)
Seaweeds: moves for AoNZ’s first seaweed farms begin in the Hauraki Gulf:
In the weeds: British agritech startup Small Robot Company (oh the branding…) announced the world's first non-chemical precision robotic weeding for cereal crops - the robot will ‘zap’ individual weeds using commercially-proven electricity and AI tech. (Key takeaway: no herbicides required.)
👓😷…and Virtual facemasks for Zoom and Teams:
You are here. amazing visualisation of how all life evolved through time (***Update: click here for fixed broken link***):
The history and future of everything: (h/t for the link John Hancock)
And… anyone want to invest in a Dyson Sphere? All that energy from the Sun is just, like, *going to waste*…
Movers and shakers around AoNZ this week:
Kudos to Michael Murphy and the team at Callaghan Innovation for collecting this comprehensive set of resources for raising capital in New Zealand:
And hot off the press, AoNZ has another new fund: this time a partnership between Icehouse Ventures and LevelTwo that will see NZ$10 million of funding, more laboratory workspaces and new incubator programmes available for “Deep Tech” startups.
(…but compare and contrast with Spotify founder Daniel Ek’s commitment of €1Bn for European “moonshot” deep tech startups, also last week).
From the internet….
🌴😵A few weeks ago we covered arborists with lasers. It can’t come soon enough for the palm tree trimmer below! In-sane.
By day, Memia reader Kev Rowland is CIO of logistics group Fliway, but by night he’s the author of the definitive “bible” of latter-day Progressive Rock. Volume 3 of his 1000-page The Progressive Underground series containing all of his prog rock reviews and interviews from 1991-2006 is just out. I enjoyed this reviewer comment:
“It’s a book that is easy to dip in and out of, rather than one to settle down with for a long read. He’s occasionally scathing - “the simple way to describe this album is just to say it is crap” – but equally he’ll gush over his favourite band. The sheer scope of material should allow even the most dedicated prog fan to discover something new in these pages.”
Take a read here:
A couple of musical gems to finish with: firstly, this genius moment from Ella Fitzgerald filtered up to the top of my feed this week, have to share:
🦾🎹🧤…and secondly how moving is this clip of Brazilian pianist João Carlos Martins playing again after 20 years thanks to a pair of “bionic” gloves? (Full story here in the Chicago Tribune from earlier this year). Just imagining what this tech will be capable of in a few more years…
🙏🙏🙏 Thanks as always to everyone who has taken time to get in touch with links and feedback, it’s great to hear from you.
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