Memia 2020.45: Positive externalities➕// a tangled knot🏘️🪢// put to sea⛵// big sheds🏗️// injecting CRISPR🧬
Getting off this world (one day)🚀
Hi / Kia ora,
Welcome to this year’s penultimate Memia scan across emerging tech, global change and the unfolding future, as viewed from this self-isolating corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand.
The most clicked link in the last issue (~16% of openers) was Siouxsie Wiles’ raw takedown of the UK’s hurry to vaccinate.
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Given all of the “break them up” loudness reverberating around the online echo chamber, I think it’s fair to reflect for a moment on a few of the *positive* externalities of having a US Adtech giant here in Aotearoa (top work Ross and Google AoNZ team👏):
A tangled knot🏘️🪢
House prices, eh.
Even the banks are calling for bold policy action!
I was batting emails back and forth on the topic this week with regular correspondent Andrew Leckie: it’s a tangled, tangled knot. On the one hand, there are many interrelated outcomes that the govt is trying to achieve…
…and on the other, there are many interrelated levers which the govt, reserve bank and businesses can try to pull (click to magnify):
(Any suggestions on what’s missing… please add into comments below.)
I sense that this is a much more complex data model than any government agency *or even bank economist* has to hand…anyone trying to take a crack?
Perhaps Aotearoa could look north to Finland, the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally:
“We decided to make the housing unconditional…To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”✔️
Put to sea⛵
Stuff reported this week that cost blowouts on 17 roads cost NZTA NZ$1.1 billion. Waka Kotahi/NZTA is quoted:
“The funding range for State Highway improvements for 2018-21 is between NZ$3b and NZ$3.85b.”
This seems like rather a lot of money, even by 2020 QE standards.
Here in Aotearoa truckers demand billion-dollar spend to fix 'dilapidated' roads while environmentalists argue that AoNZ roads will never cope with heavier trucks.
But over in Norway, shipbuilder Vard has just handed over the world’s first zero emissions, autonomous container vessel to conglomerate Yara International:
…and in Stockholm archipelago just last weekend they have been trialling a scale model of the Oceanbird wind-powered car carrier.
Also based in Auckland, ZeroJet are working on electric jet powered watercraft, which with a bit of capital could no doubt be scaled up fast. (🙏 Blair Harrison at ASX for the link).
Here’s a play: take just some of that roading budget and instead invest it into making Aotearoa a global regulatory sandbox for autonomous, carbon neutral sea freight - like is being done for aerospace. AoNZ is not short of coastline. Why not autonomous floating platforms carrying shipping containers between coastal towns with “hands free” micro ports? Take those long truck journeys off the roads…and then go export the technology and regulatory framework all around the world in 10 years’ time. How about a concept feasibility study Rob Warner?
The future keeps on signalling…
Changing this world:
Human-made materials now equal the weight of all life on Earth…
…and China is forging ahead with a weather modification service projected to cover 5.5 million sq. km for artificially induced rainfall, and 580,000 sq.km for for hail suppression by 2025.
Getting off this world:
SpaceX carried their first test of the enormous “Starship” rocket intended to take humans to Mars this decade. It ended with a big bang but, wow…not bad for a first attempt.
Hyundai became the third owner in seven years of robot maker Boston Dynamics, for a surprisingly low US$1Bn.
Electricity generator Meridian is backing a new proposed 40,000 sq.m “hyperscale” data centre in Invercargill from Datagrid, founded by Remi Galasso (Hawaiki cable) and Malcolm Dick (Callplus). Meridian has agreed to supply Datagrid’s proposed development with 100 megawatts of green electricity from the nearby 800MW Manapouri hydro scheme. (Aluminium smelter Rio Tinto conveniently exiting soon…bye bye). The project also involves laying 2900 km of subsea cable between Invercargill, Sydney and Melbourne, and another to Hawaiki Cable’s landing point at Mangawhai Heads, north of Auckland. Audacious vision, well done!👏 (It works in Iceland.)
US government departments were severely hacked by a sophisticated “supply chain attack” involving IT provider SolarWinds. Russia suspected. Ouch.New: CISA just issued a rare emergency directive instructing federal civilian agencies to review their networks and immediately power down SolarWinds products, saying the hack "poses unacceptable risks to the security of federal networks." wsj.com/articles/agenc…
In a first for gene editing, a CRISPR complex was injected directly into a human - into a patient's eye to combat a form of hereditary blindness.
Exercising my neurons this week:
After decades of exploration, physicists have finally found evidence that anyons exist: particle-like objects which only arise in realms confined to two dimensions.
A machine learning study challenges the “creative destruction” paradigm of evolution - discovering surprising patterns in Earth’s biological mass extinctions.
SF author Cory Doctorow is scathing in this thread about Uber, Softbank and the Saudi royal family:
VCs, VCs, everywhere:
Australian angel investors Matt and Aprill Allen launched Tractor Ventures with an attractive value proposition for founders:
And last week it was fun to catchup in Ōtautahi with newly imported VC Rob Vickery, GP of new NZ$40M Kiwi fund HillFarrance (random fact: named after his ancestral village in Somerset, England).
Finally, two items that caught my eye this week:
🙏🙏🙏 Thanks for reading!
Last newsletter of 2020 next week…
Cheers / Ngā Mihi