Memia 2021.26: RBNZ getting down with the kids💸// Quad🔳plus➕// put a rocket under it🚀// I, Warbot🤖// tiny (nuclear⚛️) house🏠// synthetic sushi🍣// Xero at 15🎂
The plural of LEGO is LEGO
Kia ora and welcome to yet another weekly Memia scan across the latest emerging tech and thinking about the future, as always with a focus on relevance for lil’ol’ Aotearoa New Zealand.
I enjoyed presenting on emerging tech in digital marketing to the highly engaged audience at last week’s TechMarketersNZ conference held at AUT - Helen Shorthouse gives a comprehensive writeup of the day, great to be part of the event.🙏
(Incidentally, the venue, the Sir Paul Reeves Building at AUT by Jasmax is my favourite piece of architecture in the whole country - a stunningly designed functional space built around a high atrium and always humming with students, even during the mid-semester break. Check it out next time you’re in downtown Tāmaki Makaurau).
Reminder: Memia is on Clubhouse1 for the first time this week… join me and kiwi investor Oliver Bruce (@oliverbruce) this Friday 9th July at 12:30pm NZT for a live discussion on micromobility, crypto, decentralised IoT networks like Helium and no doubt a bunch of other topics...
💸RBNZ getting down with the kids
After an extended period of studied silence on the matter, Te Pūtea Matua / Reserve Bank of New Zealand finally joined many other central banks in the world, announcing that it will “consult on, and test the perceived benefits and challenges of, a central bank digital currency”:
“We are investigating the future of money, including the need for digital money issued by the Bank to the general public (i.e. a central bank digital currency [CBDC]). A CBDC could be complementary to cash and would provide many of the benefits of cash. It could also provide digital fiat money and ensure the role of fiat money is preserved into the future.”
- Te Pūtea Matua Statement of Intent 1 July 2021 - 30 June 2024
As previously covered, China appears to be way out ahead in terms of implementation of a CBDC, but the Bank Of England has one of the most extensive and growing research libraries on the topic.
A few thoughts:
Repeating myself, I reckon a great name would be the “Aotearoa Tāra”. Tethered 1:1 to the NZ$:
Local crypto skills are in short supply… so would RBNZ decide to outsource development and implementation to an international tech vendor (eg an IBM…) as a “safe” (but not exactly nimble) implementation partner?
Or would the Facebook-initiated Diem consortium bid to be the underlying platform…creating a strategic leverage point over Aotearoa’s economy…?
Would a digital currency guarantee anonymity like cash, at least for transactions below a certain threshold?
Governments / central banks will surely have to offer more carrot than stick to win users: otherwise why would citizens transact in Digital NZ$ vs. other decentralised crypto or international digital payment providers?
Answer: Zero transaction fees. Socialise the currency so that all Aotearoa residents get free transactions and are incentivised to stay inside the garden.
Therefore…what role would traditional banks play? If every resident has a free checking account(/wallet) and a savings account(/wallet) which pays the base interest rate with the Central Bank… why would most of the population engage with a commercial bank at all?
Always keeping a side-eye on geostrategic tectonics…
Minister for Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta was the keynote speaker at last week’s 55th Otago Foreign Policy School - New Zealand Foreign Policy in a Post-COVID World.
Her comments and positioning are covered by Sam Sachdeva in Newsroom: NZ’s tilt to Indo-Pacific accelerates through Covid:
Covid-19 is not the root cause of the situation the world is in; instead, it has merely “lain bare the challenges and exacerbated that which was starting to occur long before Covid arrived in our world”.
Chief among those pre-existing challenges is the Great Power rivalry between the United States and China, a topic which invariably came up.
She had warm words for the US, “an essential security and defence partner, an important economic partner, and a leading source of the innovation and technology we need to keep improving the standard of living for all peoples”.
Waikato University’s Reuben Steff who also spoke at the gathering posted a few insights on LinkedIn:
apparently there was mention of Aotearoa joining some kind of “Quad-plus” strategic security dialogue alongside US, Australia, India and Japan…real intentions or just words…?
Reuben himself spoke of:
“…the potential for NZ to adopt 'strategic liberalism' in its foreign policy going forward, and suggested we do our best to direct the Indo Pacific region to an 'off-ramp' to avoid a New Cold War between the US (and its allies) and China.”
This week’s future signals are mostly incremental on previously covered themes:
This week’s Kaseya ransomware attack appears to have been contained to only 1500 companies around the world, not the millions of PCs claimed by perpetrators REvil. Initial concerns that this was another sophisticated supply chain attack like Solarwinds were allayed - Kaseya posted instead that this was the result of a zero-day exploit in their VSA software.
Either way, it’s wild out there and getting wilder… organisations continuing to run legacy on-premise IT systems look like they’re painting a big target on their back…
(…until one day one of the major cloud providers suffers an attack leading to a multi-day outage across all of their regions at once… With most of the major cloud companies only providing “refund-only” service levels, how ready are organisations for this scenario I wonder…?)
🚀Put a rocket under it
Jeff Bezos had his last day at the office, getting ready to go up into space. New Amazon CEO Andy Jassy took the reins, as the company adopted two new “Leadership Principles”:
Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility
Even though it’s easy to be snarky when this week’s news headline is that Amazon is using algorithms with little human intervention to fire Flex workers, this feels like an authentic first move towards addressing the gaps in Amazon’s “global citizen” scorecard… I’m intrigued to see how Amazon’s public persona shifts under Jassy’s direction (cf. Microsoft pre/post Satya Nadella).
The plural of LEGO is LEGO
(Just saying. NOT LEGOs!)
Brickit is a neat new app which scans your pile of Lego bricks and suggests (with instructions) what you can build. Very cool:
Continuing the recent theme of killer robots, The Economist reviews the new book I, Warbot: The Dawn of Artificially Intelligent Conflict by Kenneth Payne:
“Algorithms may make proficient soldiers but poor generals”
⚛️🏠Tiny (nuclear) house
Silicon Valley start-up Oklo has a plan to build nuclear “microreactors”, powered by conventional nuclear reactor waste and housed in compact A-frame structures:
Oklo’s reactors aim to be “much smaller” than the 345 megawatt Natrium reactors being built by Bill Gates-funded Terraform.
Living in a box
Apparently, Elon Musk lives modestly at Starbase:
Inc magazine uncovers the backstory … it seems that Musk’s US$50K “house” is a shipping-container sized prototype built by modular construction startup Boxabl. In the video below, their founder Galliano explains the process:
“That means, we can put a thousand of these on a ship and send them by ocean“
Aquaculture startup Wildtype will soon serve slaughter-free, lab-grown sushi-grade salmon at its facility in San Francisco, which is capable of producing 90,000kg of lab-grown fish meat per year - “without destroying the ocean”.
(A signal of something, not sure what yet):
Striking Washington Post photo essay: a McDonalds restaurant in the poverty-stricken 14e arrondissement of Marseille which was due to shut down in 2019 has been illegally occupied since the Covid-19 pandemic struck and used as a local food bank and distribution hub. The Marseille local government now plans to buy the building back for the local community.
🤯Related: over the last few months I have been enjoying the surreal but searingly funny videos from “financial infuencer” Kyla Scanlon on Tiktok. (See example below).
Also check out her written analysis of the recent “meme-stonks” Gamestop and AMC: Is collective belief the new free cash flow?
🎂Aotearoa’s largest software business Xero turned 15 years old yesterday. (Personal story: I remember chatting about a senior developer role with then-CTO Craig Walker in Wellington in 2006(/7?)…but I had young family and wasn’t about to relocate from Christchurch so we didn’t take things any further… the one that got away, eh?) Nevertheless I’ve been running my own business seamlessly on Xero for 13 years - since 2008 - so thank you and congratulations to Rod, Craig, Catherine (^OG) and the whole Xero team since then for making small business accounting so effortless. And for having the vision (and balls) to fundamentally reshape the local tech (/investment) sector - I think we’re all very proud of what you’ve achieved and the many other individuals and businesses you have enabled.🙏
👏Bravo also to Shaun Hendy who finished up his work as founding director at Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence for complexity science. Shaun led the pivotal contribution which underpinned much of the data science behind Aotearoa’s rapid Covid-19 pandemic response last year.
Te Pūnaha Matatini @PunahaMatatiniToday we say ka kite to our founding director @hendysh as the first phase of Te Pūnaha Matatini draws to a close 👋 Please join us in thanking Shaun for everything that he has done 🙌 https://t.co/7SV9pDrqD5
Speaking of data, two pieces of local data journalism this week worth sharing:
Emma Vitz in The Spinoff: From 1992 to 2021, here’s how much you needed to earn to afford a NZ house.
RNZ’s Farah Hancock delivers a comprehensive and exquisitely presented visual overview of Aotearoa’s food exports from 1990 until now:
👴Showing my age, a couple of retro anniversaries this week. I have fond memories of both of the gadgets below (in particular the Motorola StarTAC phone is the very definition of technological progress - envisioned in the original Star Trek TV show in the 60s, then suddenly amazingly real in the mid-90s, then… obsolete, a footnote in history by 2000…).
😶Once you’ve seen the video below, you can’t unsee it. (NOT a deepfake, apparently…)
🥏🐕And a world record (dog) frisbee catch:
Thanks as ever for getting in touch with thoughts, links and feedback - always appreciated!
And the usual reminder: if you enjoy Memia, feel free to forward to a friend in Aotearoa or around the 🌎🌍🌏.
Reminder that if you aren’t already on the Clubhouse closed invite beta I have a few invites left, reply to this email to get yours!