Memia 2021.07: 10 years📅// Murdoch bargaining law📰// metayou😐// covid passports🛂// flying fruit pickers🍎// smart wool🐑// two-way futurism🤯
Deep fried 'erb🌿
Kia ora / Hi
Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter exploring emerging tech and thinking about the future as it unfolds, with half an eye on my corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand.
The most clicked links in the last issue (~11% of openers) was the stunning Starling Murmurations. (Matt B commented: “[they] look exactly like my imaginings of the nanoswarms in Michael Crichton's novel 'Prey' (Pray!)”).
Reminder: you’re invited to join the first MAMA Memia (Monthly Ask Me Anything) event next Monday at 12pm NZT. Email me for a Zoom invite and to send in questions, quite a few folks signed up already, looking forward to it!
Thinking backwards rather than forwards, for once… (see also Mind Expanding below).
I took a brief moment on Monday to reflect on the journey of my adopted city - Ōtautahi Christchurch - over the last 10 years since that massive earthquake hit on 22 Feb 2011. The anniversary has been widely covered in the news but sharing a couple of pieces I valued here:
Narrative Campaign’s Erin Jackson: Ten years later; some earthquake lessons for a pandemic:
“One of the biggest challenges of post-quake Christchurch was in changing the narrative about recovery; how do you explain the impacts of living with uncertainty, at every level, to decision-makers not encumbered by that same sense?”
Another Erin (Harrington) in the Spinoff: When a City Rises is a celebration of a fallen city and its people, captures the present perfectly:
“Then there’s the day to day. I live right next to the central city and walk through frequently. Beautiful new areas, from office blocks and hospo hubs to well-designed auditoria and parks sit next to massive, fenced-off empty lots that we’ve learned not to look at. Some derelict buildings, tattooed with graffiti, have been effectively abandoned by their owners, many of whom are landbanking or holding out for more insurance money; honestly, how dare they. The city that was and the city still to come are overlaid, ghostly, across a sea of Wilson’s car parks. I worry that this nuanced element will be lost, for the non-local viewer…”
(Gerard Smyth’s highly watchable documentary When a City Rises is available on TVNZ to view on demand - a key vignette for me was the capital flight to other Australasian cities paid for from commercial building insurance proceeds…explains a lot).
Personally… I still feel I haven’t really processed it all even now! The event and its immediate aftermath certainly left a permanent imprint: checking people were out of our office building, running to my car, trying to get across Moorhouse Ave with all the traffic lights out, driving down Wilsons Road when it was visibly undulating, bursting open with liquefaction like some Hollywood disaster movie, that visceral moment of relief knowing that the family was all ok...)
…But then the intervening years went by in such a haze… for some subliminal reason I haven’t processed my own Quake Story into words yet... a task for this year perhaps.
Three thoughts bubbling up, prompted by the anniversary:
The earthquake risks are constantly there nationally and EQC’s coffers are now relatively empty…how prepared is the country for a similar scale event in Wellington or another major centre? (And given rampant house price inflation, is EQC’s insurance “cap” (now $150K) high enough…?) Does the Treasury model this stuff in detail?
The amount of time, money and environmental impact to demolish all of the damaged commercial buildings: having witnessed it first hand, this is surely a case for full lifecycle building regulation: “clip-together” modular buildings designed for rapid deconstruction and reuse, not just demolition and landfill?
🌱⏩🏢(Incidentally, my personal vision for construction in the far future: throw a nanotech “building seed” on the ground and feed it “nutrients”…for another newsletter.)
More fundamentally: even despite the insurance and rebuild organisational cluster🤬, I still feel immensely fortunate to live in a highly-insured country that has been able to support the majority of the city’s population to recover from a major disaster and move on with life. (Yes, there is lots more to be done for those who are not so fortunate). In the end, most of us have made it through ok. Likely a bit dented financially compared to our peers in Auckland and Wellington. But with a far deeper resilience than before - individually and collectively. The population is growing quickly, the sun is shining (31 degrees as I’m writing!) and the evolving cityscape continues to unfurl around us. Confidently #optimistic about Ōtautahi’s future.
Murdoch bargaining law📰
Australians woke up on Thursday last week to this message below as Facebook restricted users from sharing or viewing Australian and international news content in response to Australia’s imminent Media Bargaining Law:
Commentary splits a few ways:
Evil monopolist Facebook destroying journalism and society as we know it: Matt Stoller, FaceCrook - Dealing with a Global Menace
Australians could now find their Facebook feeds “filled with nothing but dangerous misinformation and disinformation” - David Farrier, Why Facebook decided to kill the news
Backward-looking government (in hock to legacy media tycoon) imposing an incoherent “link tax” on the internet: Benedict Evans, Paying for News:
"Google didn't take [the newspapers' advertising] money, any more than Boeing took money from the ocean liners. The internet destroyed the model."
At the time of *publishing* this post (where’s my link tax?)😜, Facebook “backed down”:
“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognize the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.”
Benedict Evans is absolutely correct that regulating global tech companies is going to be fiendishly complex. This is just an opening salvo worldwide.
China is one of the only countries in the world which excluded Facebook and Google…and as a direct result has a thriving home-grown adtech sector on a completely different stack. Where is the Australian home-grown competitor?🤷
Just like Microsoft ~20 years ago, even though Facebook and Google look unassailable right now, never underestimate the power of a new technology paradigm to bring about change while regulators are still playing catchup. To me, it feels like unrestrained monopoly US adTech is reaching its peak…and if I had to take a punt, I’d be looking at decentralised information markets… perhaps like Aotearoa’s own 21e8, to change the playing field soon.
Lots of emerging tech this week, much of it touching the mainstream media more than usual:
₿itcoin (now estimated to have the same carbon footprint as the whole of New Zealand) briefly hit US$58,000, giving it a market cap exceeding US$1 Trillion:
Pomp 🌪 @APomplianoTesla bought $1.5 billion of Bitcoin around $33,000. That means they have now made over $1 billion on that investment in less than 45 days. Elon Musk is a legend.
🛂 Covid passports:
After vaccinating nearly 50% of its population, Israel is the first country to start the process of permanently coming out of lockdown, launching a new “Green Passport” app for those who have been vaccinated or had Covid. From the Jerusalem Post: Everything you need to know about Israel’s green passport program.
Closer to home, Air New Zealand customers and employees will be among the first to trial IATA’s digital Travel Pass app on the Auckland-Sydney route.
After last week’s Metahumans, here’s MetaYou:
🛰️It’s all happening in space:
Perseverance Mars landing: this video, just released yesterday, is spectacular:
In true Elon Musk sales hustle, Starlink satellite broadband is taking preorders in New Zealand: “The Starlink hardware would cost NZ$799 plus NZ$114 for shipping and handling, and the service would cost NZ$159 per month with no data cap.” (Long term implications for rural property values still to be worked out…but worth modeling)
Last week, a Russian scientist proposed using laser ablation to melt space junk without causing pollution in space. (Last year I previewed lasers for cutting branches off trees, this is quite a step up. Just don’t be on a plane in between?)
🍎Flying fruit pickers!
🏡Not joining your Club
Invite-only Silicon Valley social audio phenomenon Clubhouse is all over my Twitter feed currently. Thanks to those who have offered me an invite, but (1) I’m too cool for school (Android, not iOS) and (2) having read John Naughton in the Guardian I’m wary that it’s a massive contact data hoovering exercise for 1%ers…plus the Stanford Internet Observatory discovered potential backdoors for the Chinese government to listen in. (Clubhouse was abruptly blocked in China on Feb 8).
Hot take: is Clubhouse just a rehash of Aotearoa's "Party Lines" in the 20th century?😜
🏭Modular 3D factories:
US Army to get a 3D-printing factories in shipping containers. This is a great idea - but you get the sense that they could use the space a bit better…? (Is there an open source version of this for civs?)
New South Wales startup LAVO is offering a hydrogen electrolysis “green battery” storage system to retain solar power for darker days.
🤯Two-way futurism: Epaminondas Christophilopoulos1, Deputy Chair of the Greek presidency’s foresight team, published an amazing paper last year: Special Relativity Theory Expands the Futures Cone’s Conceptualisation of the Futures and The Pasts. He takes Einstein’s Special Relativity and investigates how to expand the use of the “future cone” in futures studies: “considering various alternative developments of the future and the interconnections between different futures, different pasts and the present”:
How might this be applied? Well perhaps it *could* serve as an inspiration to reconceive property law to be temporally 2-way? In the same way as institutions like the Waitangi Tribunal attempt to right the wrongs of the past.... perhaps we need a Tribunal to "right the wrongs of the future”? (I’m thinking about house prices, Bernard…)
How 'moonshot' thinking could save the world: progressive economist Mariana Mazzucato talks with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about her new book "Mission Economy": how public and private sectors must collaborate to tackle the world's big problems (15min).
🐑Smart Wool? Clothing makers Allbirds, Icebreaker and Smartwool have teamed up with New Zealand Merino Company’s ZQRX platform to promote the use of more climate-friendly wool sourced from farms using 100 per cent regenerative methods.
More funds raised: congratulations Brent Ogilvie and team at Pacific Channel - they recently completed the final close of their NZ$55m “deep tech” Fund II, including NZ$20M investment from the government-funded Elevate NZ Venture Fund. Aiming to invest in between 20 and 25 Kiwi tech companies over the next 10 years.
Tall poppy: a rather unedifying “pile on” this week focused on young entrepreneur Jake Millar after his business Unfiltered folded to Crimson after burning through the best part of NZ$4M. My friend Kaila Colbin penned this excellent piece in response: How to change an entrepreneur’s life - You have far more power than you realise. Tl:dr:
“You need to start another company. Immediately.”
(Last word to Jake himself in the Spinoff piece linked above. I think this qualifies as one of the most epic mic drops ever):
“Millar also revealed that he had no plans to return to New Zealand and would soon be permanently relocating to sub-Saharan Africa.”🤩
Best of luck, chap.👍
A couple of international “specialty cuisine” items I spotted:
From Germany, Big Mac Salad:
And Scotland, Deep fried 'erb:
Thanks as always for reading, and to everyone who takes time to get in touch with links and feedback each week - appreciated every time!
And a favour to ask this week: if you enjoy Memia each week, please share this post with one friend or colleague who might too.🙏🙏🙏
Ngā Mihi / Cheers
Thank goodness for copy-and-paste!