Memia 2021.04: Cautious vaccination magic💉// tired: meme stocks📉// wired: meme metals📈// the four internets🌐// dirt is the word🌱// world after capital💲
Always looking up for alien gargoyles
Kia ora / Hi
Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter exploring emerging thinking, tech and the unfolding future, viewed from my corner of the world here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The most clicked link in the last issue (~11% of openers) was the Visual Capitalist infographic: All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization.
I’m looking forward to seeing folks at the GEN NZ entrepreneurship unconference in Wellington next Tuesday/Wednesday…<10 tickets left I think, get in!
Cautious vaccination magic💉
As Aotearoa’s PM announced that borders are likely to stay closed for the whole of 2021, there are early signs of hope from Israel, one of the earliest countries to begin mass Covid-19 vaccinations:
More commentary on Israel in the Economist: how fast can vaccination against covid-19 make a difference? Also new research just out showing hopeful signs in the UK as well. (Big shout out to my mum in lockdown in the UK who gets her first jab this week!)
Tired: meme stocks📉
So, GameStop. (NOT GameSpot! Top marks, though.😂)
To summarise in 1 paragraph…retail traders in the r/WallStreetBets subreddit (8 million subscribers and counting…) initiated a short squeeze on GME (turning it overnight into a “meme stock”). Leveraging retail options trading platform Robinhood, retail investors took the tired video game retailer’s stock stratospheric, up over 1800% in a month at one point…
…in turn causing major Wall Street hedge funds to lose around US$19 billion attempting to shore up their short positions.
A few comment and opinion links:
Packy McCormick in his Not Boring blog: Robinhood Robinhooded Robinhood (ht @Azeem for spotting)
The whole episode has garnered crazy amounts of online coverage - a friend’s Reddit feed was entirely full of GME and Robinhood-related posts at one point. (Perhaps now that Trump is gone, online oxygen is available for something else? Or just anti-Wall St schadenfreude? Whatever, it would be profoundly valuable to understand why shorting a stock gets so much headspace compared to, say, a *climate crisis* or a *once-in-a-century pandemic*. )🤯
Markets go on: there is an inevitability that hedge funds are dusting themselves down ready to invest in next-level multibillion-parameter ML models to ingest firehoses of social media data to profit off the next short squeeze…
Wired: meme metals📈
In breaking news, apparently silver has hit an 8-year high…🥱
That regular section on Aotearoa/China etc
Still keeping an eye on Indo-Pacific geopolitical tectonics:
Dancing with the dragon: EU-based kiwi economist David Skilling on the increasing challenge of managing economic & political relationships with China:
The populist CCP perspective: Qin Sheng in the Global Times (“China’s Fox News”): Why New Zealand and Australia’s relations with China are cases of fire and ice?
“First, New Zealand respects rules of the market economy more than Australia does…Second, Wellington doesn't take sides between Beijing and Washington…
Third, New Zealand is relatively open toward the rise of China. It is among some developed countries that welcome China's participation in international affairs and its proactive role in global governance.”🤨
(Related: Unlikely that new AoNZ trade minister Damien O’Connor will be let near a microphone again for a while…)🤦
Robert Ayson, Strategic Studies Professor at VUW, argues for changing the narrative away from zero-sum games: NZ must build collaboration, not more intense competition in the Asia-Pacific:
“The Biden Administration will be seeking New Zealand’s involvement as a fellow democracy. This returns us to some familiar quandaries: just how much does New Zealand wants its China policy to be defined by its relationship with Washington, and how deeply involved does Wellington want to be in a US-China contest?”
Also of significant note, an informal (Alphabet-heavy) working group of US tech execs including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt produced a memo, apparently circulating in the Biden administration: Asymmetric Competition: A Strategy for China & Technology, forcefully advocating for a bifurcation of Chinese and US tech sectors. Good summary from Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian here in Axios. Of particular relevance:
“We urge a new multilateral forum called the T-12 to bring together key countries to coordinate responses to technological competition with members as the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea, Finland, Sweden, India, Israel, and Australia.”
Pfffft. Who wants to be in your club, anyway…🥺 (And I count 13?)
A veritable flood of future signals this week:
Luminary tech investment firm Ark Invest released their annual Big Ideas 2021 report (registration required) covering 15 topics including:
Orbital Aerospace and
Cell and Gene Therapy: Generation 2
An excellent read.
🌐Equally luminous, from the middle of last year but I only just caught it now, Stratechery’s Ben Thompson on India’s massive mobile telco Jio and “the Four Internets”:
(While you’re at it, also check out Stratechery’s 2020 Year In Review).
Governments and technology:
China’s education ministry has introduced a nationwide ban on pupils bringing mobile phones into class.
India’s government plans to introduce a law to ban “private cryptocurrencies” (eg bitcoin) and put in place a framework for a new official central bank digital currency (CBDC).
Meanwhile, over in Straya (as reported last week) Prime minister Scott Morrison said that Microsoft is confident it can fill the void if Google carries out its threat to remove its search engine from Australia. That is one *courageous* political platform, right there.🤦
As reported last week, Elon Musk has pumped up the carbon capture industry with his US$100M prize announcement. Starting to see more serious discussions on commercial carbon capture and removal applications as well:
Matt Simon in Wired asks Is It Time for a “wartime-like” investment in Carbon-Eating Machines?
Dirt is the word: Soil as the original Carbon-Eating machine:
Microsoft has cut its carbon footprint by 6% in one year aiming towards being carbon-negative in 2030.
My friend from way back at university Charlie Curtis is co-founder of UK-based Origen Power, mission statement: Economic CO2 removal at giga-tonne scale by 2030, using the Lime Cycle:
Intriguing results as UK and EU scientists demonstrated a working three-neuron “brain-silicon network” - a basic hybrid artificial/biological neural network which brings functioning brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) a step closer.
…But in the absence of a fully functioning BCI, I guess we still need to read📚:
💲World After Capital is a new “work in progress” book by Venture Capitalist (oh, the irony) Albert Wenger, exploring themes of the new Attention Economy:
“Capital is no longer scarce in some parts of the world and it is becoming rapidly less scarce everywhere. We should consider this to be the great success of capitalism. But markets, which were the crucial allocation mechanism for capital, will not solve the scarcity of attention. We are bad at allocating attention, both individually and collectively...Consider paying attention to finding your purpose in life: there is no supply and demand that will form a ‘purpose price’ for an individual; it’s ultimately up to you to allocate enough attention to this existential question.”
(Of note: Albert is writing using gitbook - basically a collaborative book editing platform built on github. I’ve never come across this before but it’s my new favourite thing…the book never actually gets finished, it’s just a series of “pull requests”).
(Credible) Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb has a new book out on the mysterious Oumuamua object: Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. In January he recorded an 3-hour conversation with Lex Fridman where he goes deeply into his theory that Oumuamua may be a disc-shaped alien probe.
Before we go to Mars…the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program conducts analog missions to the moon and Mars for scientific research - at a habitat on the volcano Mauna Loa. Read the latest commander’s report: The Valoria 1 crew is fighting to survive the night.
Shout outs around Aotearoa:
Digital Boost: the government has partnered with Frances Valintine’s award-winning education provider The MindLab to deliver a rich online resource for Kiwi businesses to build digital skills and capability: follow your nose here https://digitalboost.co.nz, some useful tools and training resources in there, definitely filling a national need.
I’ve followed Andrew Butel and the crack team of software developers at Endgame in Wellington for years. He recently blogged about how they have done something pretty innovative to provide an ESOP scheme for their staff:
“…This led to us launching EndGame Ventures Fund One in 2020, wrapping up eight investments in NZ and AU SaaS companies into a phantom venture fund. The fund serves as the ESOP for the EndGame team.”
Inspired to hear from Dawn Aerospace CTO and co-founder James Powell at last night’s CanterburyTech / NZ HiTech Awards event in Ōtautahi: they are doing amazing work designing and building reusable spaceplane orbital launchers, driven by a few “undeniable truths”:
Discovered around the internet this week…:
ICYMI (she did) there was a military coup in Myanmar this week (ht @Ash_Stewart_):
In Russia the protests against Putin continue:
And finally, always look up:
🙏🙏🙏 Thanks as always for reading, and to everyone who takes time to get in touch with links and feedback each week!
More next week.
Ngā Mihi / Cheers