Memia 2021.24: Inflated expectations📈// Bezos juxtaposed🛒//laws on LAWS🤖// spooky quantum internet👻// cooling culling🦌// woodsat🪵🛰️

The Metaverse, for llamas, by llamas

Kia ora,

Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter - my regular scan across the latest emerging tech and thinking about the future. Thanks for being here!

Roundup

  • The most clicked links in the last issue (6% of openers each) were the video of the robots assembling IKEA furniture and Bernard Hickey’s The Kākā newsletter (this time *with* macrons!).

  • ☕Hot off the press: a recent UK-based study involving just under 500,000 participants showed that people who drank coffee had a 49% reduced risk of dying from chronic liver disease. One of this week’s more positive developments, I’d say.🙂

  • A couple of follow ups to last week’s plaintive dreaming about Aotearoa’s national ConstructionTech opportunity:

    • The Time To Build: Why Tech Investors Are Investing In The Built Environment1 is a report from ConstructionTech focused VC Shadow Ventures (🎩 spotting Hal Josephson):

      “The built environment is one of the world’s largest asset classes (US$40 Trillion in the US) and contributors to growth and GDP (4% of GDP in the US). It’s also the second least digitized sector in the world according to McKinsey. You may know built environment technology by different names: PropTech, ConstructionTech, or ClimateTech. How we define it: technology that is innovating how we develop, design, build, and operate the world’s physical infrastructure.”

      Shadow.vc’s thesis is that there are early-stage opportunities to be had:

      “Undervalued and Non-consensus [Venture Capital] supports solving zero-to-one problems, not marginal improvements on existing stacks. It is early days, with few investors paying close attention which means realistic valuations.”

  • *Meanwhile in China* the video below shows the construction (=assembly) of a modular, earthquake-resistant, 10-storey tower block in just over one day. (🎩 spotting Andrew Leckie.)

    (Maybe mute out the bizarre Scarborough Fair muzak backing track…).

📈Inflated expectations

🛒Bezos juxtaposed

🤖Laws about LAWS

A moral/technological line was crossed in Libya in March last year when, according to a United Nations Report, autonomous drones:

“…were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true “fire, forget and find” capability.”

The details are unclear as to whether anyone was actually killed by the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) in question - but this is the first documented evidence of a “killer robot” being deployed in the battlefield.

(In Memia 2020.37 I linked to the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots’ terrifying 1-minute video on why this is A BAD THING, you may want to watch it again.)

Earlier this week the AI Forum NZ facilitated an event with responsible minister Phil Twyford and MFAT to debate Aotearoa’s national policy on LAWS…this would sit within the wider national strategy for disarmament. Personally speaking, I believe that Aotearoa can afford to use some of its diplomatic capital to take an international leadership position on this issue - particularly as progress on coordinated international regulation is being impeded by mostly larger militarised states:

“States have yet to adequately respond to the development of weapons with autonomy, as diplomatic talks at the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons2 have struggled to achieve substantive action amidst political intransigence and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is calling on states to actively respond to this disturbing development and recognise the need to urgently negotiate prohibitions and regulations to ensure meaningful human control in the use of force – and to prevent the adoption of machines that would target people.”

Chances of a forceful national policy statement seeing the light of day this year…?🤐

[Weak] signals

Other tectonic tremors from this week:

Trendy Tech

  • Consulting behemoth McKinsey released its Top Trends In Tech report, identifying technologies attracting the biggest venture funding, patent activity and investment:

    • Next-generation computing

    • Applied AI

    • Trust architecture

    • Distributed infrastructure

    • Future of connectivity

    • Future of programming

    • Next-level process automation and virtualization

    • Bio Revolution

    • Future of clean technologies

    • Nanomaterials

    Worth a peruse…

East/West crypto mining bifurcation?

👻Spooky quantum internet

Artificial photosynthesis

  • Photovoltaic technology used in solar cells is only able to capture only ~20% of the sun’s energy into electricity. Natural photosynthesis, however, is radically more efficient, capable of storing ~60% of the sun’s energy as chemical energy in biomolecules. Researchers at the US Purdue University are aiming for clean artificial photosynthesis with up to 80% solar energy efficiency, although expect it to be >10 years until ready for commercial applications.

🦌Cooling culling

🪵🛰️Woodsat

DIY aerospace:

The Metaverse, for llamas, by llamas

Here’s something novel to watch: Upland is a virtual property trading game…

“buy and sell virtual properties based on real world addresses on the blockchain”

…basically it seems to enable trading quasi-NFTs mapped onto the physical world…a parallel metaverse of “property rights”. Right now it’s just a cute game with a Llama theme (see trailer below) - but could this actually evolve into a more serious play as a global trading platform for real property rights…?

Mind expanding

Tweaking the mental muscles this week:

  • I’d never heard of the political concept of “Sortition” until this week. Well argued by the UK’s @swardley (thread):

Rollcall

Hidden gems

Quite a few nuggets to share this week:

  • Urban transport v.next:

Thanks as ever for getting in touch with thoughts, links and feedback - always appreciated, keep them coming!

And if you enjoy Memia, please take the time to share with a friend in Aotearoa or around the 🌎🌍🌏.

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Ngā mihi

Ben

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One provocative legal viewpoint on LAWS that I am aware of is that it would make any government, military - and arguably private hardware and AI/software manufacturer - involved in civilian fatalities in a warzone liable under the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons. In effect, truly intelligent LAWS *should* transform all warzones into policing situations by being able to distinguish civilians from military personnel… simple in theory but certainly not applicable to Libya-style guerrilla warfare…