Memia 2021.19: Just the beginning⌛// the exponential age⏩// cryptophilanthropy💸// GPT-free🆓// minimum viable party🗳️// future of protein
The highest form of intelligence
Another week, another Memia scan across emerging tech and the unfolding future. Thanks for being here!
Big in Gore: it’s New Zealand Techweek next week - I’m looking forward to taking part in a full week of events, including visiting Southland next Monday and speaking with business and student audiences about Tech Opportunities in 2021.
I had an awesome catchup with friend and colleague Sam Ragnarsson last Thursday - with meeting notes captured by Sam in incredible detail using his now-famous “Hive Mind” email template system… and I’m assuming now in Roam as well (Roam is mindblowingly great, btw):OMG! I can't overstate how much I am loving Roam Research. Finally a tool that not only keeps up with how I think, but also helps beyond believe. Picture after less then two day usage. Thanks - next round on me for sure. And thanks !!!
…In particular really intrigued to hear about work going on behind the scenes to coordinate an Integrated National Farm Data Platform (INFDP)… watching this space. (Related: see this OECD paper from 2019: Digital Opportunities for Better Agricultural Policies).
⌛Just the beginning
Two recent cyberattacks in the news:
Colonial Pipelines, a company responsible for carrying 45% of the fuel consumed on the US East Coast, was hit by a ransomware attack on 7 May, halting pipeline operations for days and causing widespread chaos to fuel supply lines and gas station queues. Allegedly they payed a US$5M ransom to recover…
Summary from cybersecurity expert Katlyn Dallo: What You Should Know About the Colonial Pipelines Cyberattack.
Apparently Darkside, the pseudonymous group behind the ransomware, claims to be a non-state actor and has even developed a social conscience:
However, “apolitical” is perhaps overstating things (click for thread):The assumption is that Darkside is not nation state affiliated, but like oh-so-many ransomware groups it uses tools like “GetUserDefaultLangID” to perform language checks. If the victim uses any languages below, DarkSide moves on.
Nicole Perlroth @nicoleperlrothThe criminals responsible, Darkside, are a relative newcomer to ransomware, but have an intriguing “code of conduct.” They will not extort hospitals, funeral homes, non profits. They do target large corps and sometimes donate some proceeds to charities (that return the $).
The US White House responded with an Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity: in summary: improved threat sharing, better authentication and move everything to the cloud.
Closer to home, just yesterday Waikato DHB confirmed that it too was the victim of a ransomware attack and is suffering an ongoing systems outage. Clearly a target of a hacker group with less scruples than Darkside…?
Fundamentally this demonstrates the increasing vulnerability - and hence critical business risk - of legacy IT infrastructure and applications. Urgent investment is needed to get OFF 10-year-old on-premise systems. Risk and audit committees around the land: this is only the beginning…YOU ARE ON NOTICE.
More philosophically, one does muse whether placing nearly all of the world’s IT infrastructure in a small number of massive centralised datacentres under the responsibility of ~5 multinational vendors creates a larger or smaller attack surface than before…?
⏩The Exponential Age
This is remarkable: Cayman Islands-based macro-investor and crypto-evangelist Raoul Pal goes hard at a 90-minute take (almost unbroken) live to camera: Introduction to the Exponential Age:
He has a complex, epoch-spanning and evolving thesis on what’s actually going on in society and markets today, some key points I captured:
Demographically aging Japan 20+ years ago was the blueprint for modern quantatitive easing policies worldwide.
Globally, central bank balance sheet increases are now debasing fiat currencies at a rate of ~15% per year
Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptos are the only asset classes counteracting asset inflation
Metcalfe’s law is driving network effects across the whole digital asset class
Defi is a completely new lending and borrowing (…and insurance…?) infrastructure, decentralised on the blockchain. Needs a completely new approach to regulation.
Cryptocurrencies and gaming/virtual reality are just the beginning of a migration of value to the new “Metaverse” - virtual worlds where value is earned, held and exchanged in digital, not physical assets:
“This is the largest wealth redistribution in history…”
Much of this is happening far more quickly due to the awakening financialisation of Gen Z since Covid.
There are aspects of market-pumping to the presentation style and content - certainly I don’t take it as investment advice - but some deeply resonating truthful notes came through for me watching this talk, definitely worth spending the time.
The usual weekly roundup of signals from near and far futures:
In other Crypto news, 27-year old Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin donated over US$1Bn of cryptocurrency assets to help save lives in India as it suffers from Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately almost all of it was in a memecoin (“Shiba Inu coin” - yes, another dog(e) coin), which tanked in value soon after:
🗳️Minimal Viable Party
More from the Tony Blair Institute’s Chris Yiu: Minimum viable party, A radical reboot of our approach to politics is long overdue, applying the principles of tech startups and product management to imagine new political party models:
“One of the most exciting developments of the internet era is the explosion in permissionless innovation. It’s never been easier to build, and it’s never been easier for people outside of traditional institutions to stand up a viable alternative to the status quo…the implicit assumption that a political party has to be in government before it can start delivering for the public belongs firmly in the past.”
So what is the role of tech in a new political party going forward? He lists a few concepts:
APIs as civic infrastructure
Alternative service delivery
Community group buy
Consensus at scale
Coins and tokens
“There may be a significant first-mover advantage for political parties able to adapt themselves to thrive in novel virtual environments and address the new user needs that arise within them.”
In depth analysis from the NYT on how Apple has decided to make some hard compromises around user privacy with the Chinese Government as it completes two massive iCloud data centres in Guiyang and Inner Mongolia:
While the code for most of OpenAI’s GPT language models is open source, the model is impossible to replicate without massive amounts of compute (courtesy of Microsoft). But public access to the trained models is only available via API to a select few companies and individuals - with no clear access policy. Enter GPT-Neo, a freely-available open source transformer from AI Research Collective EleutherAI, trained on 825GB data set The Pile and with performance comparing well to similarly sized GPT models.
Back down to Earth
Don’t move to the countryside too soon… in a recent review, apparently Starlink’s satellite internet service doesn’t work so well if there are trees near you.
Ohio University Dean of Engineering Ayanna Howard sounds a cautious note about how humans place too much trust in automated machines (with recent high profile fatal results)…and what could be done about it:
Microsoft has chosen a deliberate focus on business use cases for its Hololens headsets. Head of Mixed Reality Alex Kipman confirmed in a recent interview that Microsoft is working on HoloLens 3 - and also collaborating with competitors Niantic and Epic to “keep mixed reality an open platform with free interoperability, multiple hardware sources and no app store lock-in to tax”. Good signals.
🥛Future of protein
Last week’s 2-day E Tipu Agri-innovation summit in Ōtautahi was an excellent event with wide-ranging agenda and speakers. Congrats @Kaila and the Boma organising team (and the [non-synthetic] food was *amazing* too!). Two key themes stood out for me:
Singapore is the emerging world leader in synthetic proteins:
Shiok Meats makes cell-cultured shrimp and lobster proteins (a recent Shiok survey found that over 78% of Singaporean consumers were willing to try cell-based seafood).
Sophie’s Bionutrients make an algae-based milk “comparable in nutritional value to cow’s milk, but made using a fraction of the energy, land and water”.
Tickling the neocortex this week:
History of transhumanism - humans have been imagining downloading our thoughts to the mainframe for centuries.
I’ve read a few Chinese Sci-Fi authors in recent years, strikingly different in style and content to the Western genre. Now added to my reading list is Suparno Banerjee’s Indian Science Fiction: Patterns, History and Hybridity - lots of new avenues to explore…
Around the Motu this week:
🍾Another one away: super congratulations to Dunedin-based, remotely-managed SaaS firm Timely for their >NZ$100M exit to Colorado firm EverCommerce. (Found Ryan Baker looking very floral in all the PR shots…). Another epic result for Lance Wiggs and Punakaiki Fund as well.👏
🍇Blenheim-based Smart Machine has unveiled its new range of viticulture robots and has backing from global alcohol giant Pernod-Ricard.
🐀Pest catching robots: the latest update from Cacophony Project, more hypnotic infrared videos of invasive pests being outsmarted by increasingly sophisticated traps.
🍁Also Aotearoa-HQ’ed education and GIS open-source software specialists Catalyst IT have expanded their footprint into Canada -with North American demand accelerated by the pandemic.
An eclectic trio of links from around the interweb this week:
I love the juxtaposition here:
And, this is sooo true:
As always thanks 🙏🙏🙏 for letting me into your inbox each week - and to all readers who send in links, comments and feedback…appreciated!
More again next week.
Ngā mihi / Cheers