Memia 2021.21: Speaking of the climate emergency🥵// learn to code?🔣// Unreal is real🤯// transit🚇microbiomes🦠// life on Mars🔭// happy humpback🐋

Building a bridge to Ash Vegas

Kia ora,

Welcome to another Memia newsletter, my regular scan across emerging tech and thinking about the future - all viewed from my corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand. Thanks for being here!

📰Weekly roundup

🥵Speaking of the climate emergency…

More signs of a globally turning tide against the oil sector:

Despite this, independent researcher Gail Tverberg (ourfiniteworld.com) has an underlying thesis that the world is fast approaching a finite resources crunch: oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages and climate change…

“a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once”

Her most recent article, don’t expect the world economy to resume its prior growth pattern after COVID-19, is thought provoking:

“It is not surprising that some of the countries with the biggest oil import problems have been the most enthusiastic about travel cutbacks related to COVID-19.”

…underlined by this graph💡:

[…about which @HoneyBeeGeek also points out:]

So, given Tverberg’s analysis where would this leave Aotearoa? Facing an imminent collapsing global debt bubble while our economy is still wholly dependent on imported oil? And still without a clearly articulated roadmap towards an alternative… Happy days.

Meanwhile things are looking up on the other side of the carbon ledger:

  • San Francisco startup Heirloom Carbon Technologies has developed a scalable process using limestone-based CO2 removal technology and has its first customer: payments giant Stripe plans to purchase nearly 250 tons of carbon removal from the company at $2,054 per ton. (Target price $50 per ton):

    “Heirloom…says it could do carbon dioxide removal for $50 a ton once it reaches commercial scale, which would come in well below the estimates for other industrial approaches. Its goal is to remove 1 billion tons of the main greenhouse gas fueling climate change by 2035….Preventing the planet from warming by 2 ˚C could require pulling 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by 2050 and 20 billion annually by 2100, according to a 2018 study.”

[Weak] signals

This week’s selection of signals from near and far futures this week:

Machine learning

  • 🔣Learn to code? Microsoft introduced its first product features powered by GPT-3. This isn’t exactly a new concept but Power Apps “developers” will be able to use natural language (eg “find products where the name starts with ‘kids’” and then a tuned GPT-3 model offers choices for transforming the instruction into code, eg something like “Filter(‘BC Orders’ Left(‘Product Name’,4)=”Kids”).

    • So what do the kids learn now?

  • Wired magazine reports on the EU’s attempts to regulate AI: Dumbed Down AI Rhetoric Harms Everyone: “policymakers using sweeping platitudes to regulate AI may persecute citizens more than protect them”.

  • AI is learning how to create itself ($wall) - MIT Tech Review reports on evolutionary open-ended machine learning - such as Uber Labs’ POET which continuously creates new training environments through mutating older environments.

  • And Ai-Da is supposedly an “AI artist” with its own TED talk. Meh.

🦠🚇Microbial transit ecosystems

  • This is fascinating: scientist Chris Mason has led the collection of a global snapshot of public transit microbiomes around the world.

Here’s the sample from downtown Tāmaki Makaurau:

(Check out all of the worldwide results, mapped).

🤯Unreal is real

  • One year ago I covered the early preview of Unreal Engine 5. Creators Epic Games just announced early developer access. Friend and VR guru Tim Rastall has had a go: “frankly astonishing in terms of a technical leap forward”. Check it out:

    • (Watching this video, I’m struck by the juxtaposition of the hyper-real 3D rendering against the 2D 1990s-Photoshop-esque, mouse-driven desktop metaphor UX for the UE5 designer… surely the future of designing 3D games lies within the 3D environment itself?)

Everyone in space

Mind expanding

Rollcall

Around the motu this week:

Hidden gems

My pick of the week’s interweb:

The usual huge 🙏 to everyone who continues to get in touch with links and feedback, it’s appreciated! If you enjoy Memia, please take the time to share with a friend in Aotearoa or around the 🌎🌍🌏.

Ngā mihi / Cheers

Ben