Memia 2020.44: After you, no after you💉// insurance retreat: a BIG play🔥🌊// geography is not destiny?🌏// capitalism solved💰✔️// flying hy(drogen)🛫⚛️
I can't believe it's not chicken🍗
Hi / Kia ora,
Welcome to another Memia weekly scan across emerging tech, global change and the unfolding future, as viewed from Aotearoa New Zealand.
After you, no after you💉
Boris Johnson has taken the UK to the front of the vaccine queue.
AoNZ science communicator Siouxsie Wiles has some characteristically robust opinions on the British government’s emergency use authorisation to rollout the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA Covid-19 vaccine from this week.
…Perhaps wise not to be directly at the front of this particular queue.🤔
Insurance retreat: a BIG play🔥🌊
Te Kōmata o te Tonga / The Deep South Challenge: Changing with our Climate is a National Science Challenge aiming to “enable New Zealanders to adapt, manage risk and thrive in a changing climate”.
Last week, (just after the hottest November globally since records began) Deep South released a report authored by principal investigator Belinda Storey (Climate Sigma): Insurance Retreat: Sea Level Rise and the Withdrawal of Residential Insurance in New Zealand. The culmination of 3 years of research, the report has some stark findings, with thousands of low-lying AoNZ homes at risk of losing cover as insurers retreat from the market:
These are some of the first local insurance market signals we’re seeing related to climate change. They won’t be the last.
So…here’s a BIG play: in Memia 2020.35 I talked about hedging the Keeling Curve, which tracks the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Given the AI-enabled advances we are seeing in bio science - just one example, Deepmind’s spectacular protein-folding result last week - who would consider a wager on similarly rapid breakthroughs in photoreactive capture (“artificial photosynthesis”) which uses energy from sunlight to fix carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere at megaton scale?
Progress is being made on a number of fronts, most recently:
*If* this research delivers what it promises, the global reinsurers who incorporate it earliest into their models could win BIG. (As will humanity…)
Geography is not destiny?🌏
The latest draft report from the AoNZ Productivity Commission on Aotearoa’s frontier firms is worth a read:
“Geography is not destiny - New Zealand can do better…An opportunity exists for New Zealand to change key aspects of the status quo and lift performance. It is not about tearing things down and starting again. In many ways New Zealand is already an innovative place, but it needs to get much better at turning those good ideas into world-leading firms.”
I wonder what could change?🦧
Memia’s regular collation of tech-related signals from the near and far future:
Banking just got competitive: financial services software giant Stripe launched Stripe Treasury, a “banking-as-a-service API” that enables simple integration for customers to hold funds, pay bills, earn interest, manage cash flow. Box founder Aaron Levie has a hot take:
ICC - International Climate Court?
China deep science x2
Two impressive items of deep science news coming out of China this week:
Researchers from USTC Shanghai claimed that for the first time, a quantum computer made from photons achieved quantum supremacy, outperforming all classical supercomputers. Unlike other quantum computers built using supercooled superconductors, the USTC Shanghai researchers used “an elaborate tabletop setup of lasers, mirrors, prisms and photon detectors” which can also operate at room temperature.
(Australian ex-Google quantum scientist John Martinis cast doubt on the results).
In other developments, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) commissioned its new “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor research facility which operates at 150 million degrees Celsius - 10 times as hot as the sun.
ICYMI (I did) Facebook-initiated Libra digital currency consortium changed its name to Diem “to reinforce its organisational independence”.
Chinese eCommerce mall JD.com launched a pilot program to test the rapidly maturing Digital Yuan - which so far has been used in more than 4M transactions, worth a total of about 2 billion yuan (US$306 million).
Meanwhile the Economist writes about how Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) could disintermediate traditional banks - and is that actually a bad thing?
I can’t believe it’s not chicken🍗
Singapore approves lab-grown chicken meat from US company EatJust for public consumption.
Rotten Apple core😮
Apple patched a rather scary security hole in the IoS kernel:
I've had a number of conversations this week about regulating AI, prompted by:
The international not-for-profit Partnership on AI launched an AI Incident Database to gather data from when AI fails (nice work by kiwi Sam Yoon who contributed early on).
Research supported by the NZ Law Foundation found a “regulation gap” for facial recognition technology in Aotearoa.
Iranian media *alleged* that the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was carried out by an autonomous AI-assisted machine gun:
Meanwhile the Guardian reports that the UK’s 5-year defence review will lead to investment in robot warfare: ‘Robot soldiers could make up a quarter of the British army by the 2030s’.
Australia in space
Mike Elias, founder of IdeaMarket.io, published a groundbreaking 3-part treatise on Epistemic Reserve Notes - translating the concepts of reserve banking to truth, knowledge and trust in the modern information age, concluding:
“Credulity is the new skepticism The metaphor of risk management implies credulity should replace skepticism as the guiding principle of public inquiry.”
Block out a long sit down to read and absorb in full.
Shout outs around AoNZ to:
Tāmaki Makaurau-based legal AI startup McCarthy Finch was acquired by US enterprise workflow provider Onit.
25yo Kiwi serial inventor Logan Williams is at it again with Keravos, a biodegradeable plastic replacement made from wool and corn starch.
Judgements as Data: huge kudos to emerging tech / legal researchers Tom Barraclough, Curtis Barnes and Warren Forster for publishing their latest report arguing for open digital access to AoNZ Case Law:
“Put simply, people with commercial subscriptions to case law databases get access to written decisions of the courts that others do not. They also get access to vastly superior tools for navigating those written decisions…The current system is an anachronism from a period in which the legal system was shaped by paper documents, and deserves to be updated. A future system is possible utilising [modern internet based] digital technologies and publishing processes”
A key piece of “shovel ready” digital infrastructure ready for investment to bring our legal system into the 21st century!
Stumbled upon culture around the internet this week:
Wakeboarding just reached another level of fun:
Are you a robot? Extremely funny skit from Stevie Martin and Lola-Rose Maxwell:
And this, Metal Kenneth Copeland, is *truly* a work of art for our times:
🙏🙏🙏 Thanks as always to everyone who takes time to get in touch with links and feedback.
Reminder: If you enjoyed this newsletter, please remember to share with someone else who would also, thank you!
More next week…only a couple more weeks to the summer break…
Cheers / Ngā Mihi