Memia 2020.39: Putting up the plyboard🔨// down the fact-checking rabbit hole🐇🕳️// solace of quantum⚛️// remixable citizenship🛂// 5-person marriages👰👰👰👰👰
Strap in tight.🎢
Hi / Kia ora,
The most clicked link in the last issue (~15% of openers) was video of the forthcoming GPT3() spreadsheet function - perhaps the clearest glimpse yet of what’s going to be possible soon with human/AI augmentation.
Putting up the plyboard🔨
Well the day has *finally* arrived…as this newsletter goes out, the US is officially in the last 24 hours of electing their next president. Stay safe and well US readers…🤞
Some links which capture the (tense) Zeitgeist seen from afar:
Boom time for carpenters🪚:
The purpose-built Transition Integrity Project ran a series of strategic “war game” scenario planning exercises - releasing a detailed report in August. Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition is essential reading for those trying to anticipate how the next few months might play out…
The NZ Herald has a comprehensive preview 1 day out: Is America on the brink of a second Civil War? Unbelievable 4 years ago.
Clever reverse perspective commentary of the US Election as viewed from Kenya (click for long thread):
Rarely in history has the range and scale of potential outcomes been more uncertain: from a Biden landslide, peaceful transition and gradual healing… right through to all-out civil war and political disintegration… with massive reverberations for the global order if the US was to implode leaving an imperial (nuclear-armed) vacuum in its wake. Looking back to when the Soviet Union collapsed…
“In the years leading up to 1991, virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union. Neither…did Soviet dissidents nor, judging by their memoirs, future revolutionaries themselves.”
- Leon Aron, writing in 2011
Also in the last week, the CCP announced China’s latest 5-year plan, emphasising “scientific and technological self-reliance” and a “strong domestic market” to counter US leverage over China’s economy.
Hoping things turn out OK this week. Strap in tight.🎢
Down the fact-checking rabbit hole🐇🕳️
An interesting thing happened to me last week: an article I shared on social media got fact-checked. I thought it would be worth recording the experience as (1) it demonstrates the ever-improving fact-checking infrastructure on the internet - but (2) also the remaining vulnerabilities.
Last Thursday I shared this article from The Guardian through Memia’s various social media channels and received a notification from Facebook about a day later:
This led me on a click-by-click trail to check how the facts had been checked. Full details here: Down The Fact-Checking Rabbit Hole, but ultimately I landed here:
About 15-30mins down an internet rabbit hole ending with just a website, a logo and a brand name (IFCN who? Poynter who?).
Only Facebook’s original endorsement - linking to the climatefeedback.org website from the misleading post - gave it any provable authenticity.
So… on the one hand it’s encouraging that this fact checking infrastructure is out there and functioning increasingly well - but as it stands it suffers from a verifiability problem - and hence is wide open to a DDOS attack. Given what we now know of GPT-3’s capabilities, it would be *really easy* for a malicious actor to create 20(,000) of these “Fact Checking” websites and provide 50 fake reviews for every news story they didn’t like… potentially sowing doubt on pretty much all content anywhere.
Is there any less vulnerable, more verifiable “truthometer” solution for internet content? (And usable, too: a simple green/amber/red “verified by [who?]” icon, just like the padlock in a web browser…). Could it be built into the internet infrastructure itself…? As I previously wrote in Truth and the underlay there’s clearly a lifetime of work still left to do here.
(Mostly tech) signals from near and far futures…
Solace of Quantum⚛️:
Global venture capital deals in quantum computing are hotting up (see graph below)… but it’s still a matter of speculative timing. The current generation of NISQ computers such as those from IBM, Google, Rigetti and IonQ are too error-prone for commercial applications… it may still take a decade or more to produce a general purpose quantum computer which can solve problems completely beyond the reach of today’s classical machines.
(New startup PsiQuantum ($US230M+ funding so far) is aiming to build a fully-functional quantum computer within 5 years).
At the other end of the scale:
The Raspberry Pi 400, a US$70 desktop PC shipping to AoNZ by the end of this year, hopefully:
Lights, Camera, Drone Swarm:
AI model detects asymptomatic Covid-19 infections through cellphone-recorded coughs (fact checking recommended…)
At the coalface:
ANZ is the last big Australian bank to cease new lending to the coal industry, planning to completely close its coal loan book by 2030, as a result of its new lending criteria to support the 2015 Paris climate agreement target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This week’s exertion for the imagination: more future scenario magic quadranting:
(Thanks to recently returned kiwi Kate Sutton for the link…) The IMAJINE project, funded by the European Commission, explores inequality and injustice across Europe. IMAJINE researchers developed four future scenarios which juxtapose two political axes:
The four scenario sketches are provocative thought experiments of imagined futures for Europe and the rest of the world. Here are just a few nuggets:
Elements of the natural environment are granted legal personhood (just like The Whanganui River)
Digital citizenship evolves from its early Baltic experiments to a set of online rights and responsibilities which transcend physical location. Citizenship resembles a subscription model, with identity more deeply tied to the transnational combines which employ people: you might be a European “Facebook citizen” online, even though you physically live in New Zealand.
🛂Remixable citizenship: some rights and responsibilities can be disaggregated by citizens, then delegated or shared with relatives, friends, business partners, or even autonomous software entities.
Abandoned coastal towns and ghettoised cities: the fortunate few have moved up and out to higher-altitude rural areas, living in shiny gated communities designed to protect residents from climate change and pandemics.
👰👰👰👰👰Gender diverse 5-person marriages become common.
Non-territorial economy: Digital space refuses to conform to traditional notions of a territory. Communities and regions worldwide reorder and build alliances with one another, and tensions arise as physical regions strive to hold onto the wealth that they have generated. “Economic bridges” extending transnational networks are as significant as geographically contiguous transport links.
A good read with your morning espresso - as always would be a worthwhile exercise to do the same for AoNZ. One day…
Nominations are open for the new Earthshot Prize, centred around five ‘Earthshots’ to achieve by 2030: 5x UKP1million prizes will be awarded each year for the next 10 years, providing at least 50 solutions to the world’s major environmental problems by 2030.
In my role on the board of Canterbury Angel Investors, it’s been a great week with the group participating alongside other local investors in capital raises for two exciting AoNZ startups this week. Awesome to see the local early stage investment market thriving despite the crazy year it’s been.
Congrats to Abbe, Jacob, Shane and the team at fermentation tech startup Winely, seen here celebrating their NZ$2M raise:
Likewise, nice work FileInvite, makers of secure client document portal software, raising an additional $2.3M to close a total round of $4.5M. Under CEO founder James Sampson, the business doubled revenue in 10 months and serves >300,000 users in 26 countries. Impressive growth.
A couple of distractions from around the internet:
An orange globe:
Winning Halloween 2020:
🙏🙏🙏 Thanks as always to everyone who takes time to get in touch with links and feedback, it’s always great to hear from you.
…And if you enjoyed reading this week’s newsletter, please take a moment to forward to someone in your network. Thank you!
More next week… (subject to the world still being here…😶).
Cheers / Ngā mihi