Memia 2020.42: Ports in a perfect storm🚢🌀// WFH tax WTF🤦// when VR🪐meets AR👓// Russian cyberpunk robot🤖farm🚜🐄
₿ Reasons for hodlers to be cheerful
Hi and Kia ora,
Welcome to another Memia scan across emerging tech, global change and the unfolding future - as viewed from Aotearoa New Zealand.
₿itcoin is back
Reasons for hodlers to be cheerful:
(Given all the Fed QE this year, is that Bitcoin rising or US$/Fiat falling?)
Ports in a perfect storm🚢🌀
Supply chains around the world are getting chronically congested…after years of accelerating, just-in-time globalised trade, the Covid19 pandemic has triggered a worldwide shipping and logistics shock: in particular a lack of planes in the air and a shortage of containers are causing blocked ports globally:
Boatloads of cargo are backed up outside Los Angeles while the cost of shipping goods to the UK has shot up in November:
New Zealand’s ports are in a perfect storm according to the National Road Carriers Association: problems brought about by a combination of booming exports from North Asia, not enough vessels, industrial action across the Tasman causing shipping delays of up to eight weeks, COVID-19 and Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga facing some major challenges of their own with struggling automation projects:
“Worldwide supply chains are in disarray…the current pandemic affects everything…it does not take much to bring New Zealand Inc. to its knees. Shipping companies and ports across the country are already struggling to keep up with consumer demand and the worst is yet to come…That urgent part you needed from the warehouse in Singapore is not available now. It will be shipped by sea and arrive in six weeks. If you need it in a hurry for Christmas, then you should have ordered it in October.”
— NZ National Road Carriers Association (NRC) CEO David Aitken
🎅⏳There are cumulative knock on effects for both importers and exporters…and expect Santa to be delayed by a few months…
This raises longer term questions on the design of supply chains everywhere but particularly for AoNZ given our geographical isolation:
Clearly there’s a need to team with other nations to invest in more diverse and localised physical supply chains - China Plus One (…Plus N…) sourcing strategies together with building more onshore capacity.
But even with basic supply diversity, cost-driven supply chains have proven too fragile - resilience is THE mandatory feature now. Luckily technology is moving fast and many physical parts should be able to be downloaded and printed locally without requiring international shipping - see 3D printing enables multiple scenarios for supply chain resilience. This would require major international standardisation and investment, however.
Thinking more philosophically, a conscious national strategy of dematerialising imports and exports would go some way towards improving AoNZ’s resilience to these shocks in future: Just. Buy. Less. Stuff?
WFH Tax WTF🤦
For millions of people worldwide this year, working from home has offered a glimpse of how things could be different over the long term. But battle lines are being drawn for when “things return to normal”: back in August (pre-2nd-lockdown), the UK government was pushing to get staff back to offices amid warnings of UK 'ghost towns'. One worker commented:
“I resent the government essentially telling me I need to live a life that is actively unhappy just so that I can prop up Pret a Manger”🖕
Last week, Deutsche Bank even proposed a work-from-home tax:
“People who can WFH and disconnect themselves from face-to-face society have gained many benefits during the pandemic. A five per cent tax for each WFH day would leave the average person no worse off than if they worked in the office. It could raise $49bn per year in the US, €20bn in Germany, and £7bn in the UK. That can fund subsidies for the lowest-paid workers who usually cannot work from home”
New Zealand-based international journeyman CTO Owen Evans understands why physical office working patterns are now - more than ever - brittle points of failure for 21st century organisations. He suggests renaming “remote working” in his excellent article: Resilient Working (that word “resilient” again…)
“….We need a way for command and control managers to really understand how to communicate outcomes, to understand how to communicate objectives and actually get good at management or get out of the way…So can we put the conversation about remote working to bed please. Call it resilient working and lets help everyone work out how to do it.”
Memia’s regular collation of signals from the future:
When VR🪐meets AR👓:
More tangibly, when VR meets AR is makes “Mixed Reality” (XR) - I recently came across Finnish XR headset maker Varjo and their photorealistic XR-1 headset, the demo blows the socks off Oculus. But at US$9995 per unit🤯… and that’s without the grunty PC you'd need…
My good friend Tim Rastall told me to keep an eye on Spatial Anchors: both Microsoft Azure and just recently Google Cloud have released anchor APIs which deliver support needed for multiplayer smartphone- and headset-based AR “on the street” - the killer app/enabler for mainstream AR/XR experiences.
Also keeping an eye out for audio enhancements for XR: “sound beaming” is a new technology from Israel’s Noveto Systems, which beams sound directly to a listener without the need for headphones:
“It follows you wherever you go. So it’s personally for you — follows you, plays what you want inside your head.”
(….or what *someone else* wants…?)
…And smartphone maker Oppo previewed a stunning concept design for its new AR glasses: 18mm high resolution OLED panels, stereo fisheye cameras for gesture recognition…and more.
(…also check out Oppo’s cool sliding screen concept phone announced at the same event… just don’t take it to the beach).
When Oprah met Barack:
Check out this interview with Barack Obama, filmed on opposite sides of the US. The future of Zoom pretty soon I reckon.
More vertical farming:
San Francisco agtech firm Plenty claims 95% less water, 99% less land, 400X more yield for its kale, lettuce and bok choi crops:
Other signals this week:
Israeli scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery, demonstrating the reversal of aging in two key biological clocks in humans by giving patients oxygen therapy in a pressurized chamber.
AI education will be taught in South Korean high schools next year before being expanded to the curriculums of kindergartens and elementary and middle schools by 2025.
US researchers have developed computer simulations suggesting that using geoengineering to cool the planet (eg. emitting tons of sulphur dioxide particles into the stratosphere to reflect heat from the sun back into space) would not be enough to overcome greenhouse effects if CO2 emissions continue at the current rate.
US nuclear energy research firm NuScale has begun proving its systems for small modular nuclear reactors, promising (very safe) carbon-free energy. All managed from a central control centre which makes SpaceX look modest:
Economics as physics: Thanks to reader Richard Schutte for sharing this 2015 FT profile of César Hidalgo, professor at MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) discussing his book Why Information Grows:
“[Hidalgo] takes a radically different approach [to economics]. As a physicist by training, his building blocks for a theory of growth are not labour and capital but rather matter, energy and information. Hidalgo’s thesis is that economies grow because information grows; it follows that to understand how the economy grows, we need to understand how information grows….
…[his] work has a sobering message for policy makers. Growth comes primarily from moving to adjacent opportunities in a product space. A country growing peanuts might make peanut oil… but isn’t going to jump to biotech. Growth is a highly path-dependent business.”
I was lucky enough to see César present at the London CogX AI festival in 2019 and his work has moved on considerably - in particular the OEC (an amazing trade data visualisation tool) has now been iterated up to Version 4.0, now including more granular economic data from countries all around the world and also forecasting tools.
Hidalgo’s Economic Complexity Index is highly predictive of future economic growth and helps explain cross-national differences in income inequality. I get the sense that Hidalgo’s work is as near the bleeding edge of economic [data] science as it’s possible to get - anyone interested in AoNZ economic policy might want to get up to speed if not already.
Just weird physics: Russian physicist Dr. Eugene Podkletnov claims to have created an “impulse gravity generator” capable of punching holes in concrete & deforming inch-thick steel plates. His team’s experiments have provided:
“…precise, consistent results, giving us a figure of 64 C, which indicates that the gravitational impulse is propagating at a speed 64 times faster than the speed of light.”
Sixty. Four. Times. C.🤯
Lots going on in Aotearoa this week…
Congratulations to friend and colleague, founder Brett O’Donnell and the whole team at Webtools Energy who were acquired by Agility CIS this week - recognition for a relentless focus on building quality software, customer satisfaction and a cohesive company culture...well done!
Busy week in space: Rocketlab helped Swarm Internet launch 24 more satellites:
…and also successfully recovering the Electron first stage on the #ReturnToSender mission:
Also in space news this week, Mark Rocket (one of the original co-founders of RocketLab…yes, he changed his surname) launched his new venture, Kea Aerospace - the solar powered Kea Atmos will travel in the stratosphere powered by hundreds of solar cells:
I’m always finding gems hidden around the internet that deserve to be shared:
Cryptocurrency, 1869 style:
…and Russian Cyberpunk Robot🤖Farm🚜🐄 - this short film is next level up, from an alternative reality. Top marks.💯
🙏🙏🙏 Thanks as always to everyone who takes time to get in touch with links and feedback. If you enjoyed this newsletter, please do share with a friend:
More next week…
Cheers / Ngā Mihi