Memia 2021.28: Fires🔥and floods🌊...and farming🚜// fleet-ing💨// practical AI [ethics]👮// e-viation🛫// future of humanity👣// finding Point Nemo🌏
The neuroscience of taking turns in a conversation🤐
Welcome to another weekly Memia scan across emerging tech trends and future thinking, as always with one eye on my corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand.
The most clicked link in the last issue (6% of openers) was the story of the unfortunate crew of Soyuz 11. (And sorry last week’s link to the previous week’s most clicked link (AI Lego video) was broken…here it is).🙇
On viral R0 numbers discussed last week - as NSW, Victoria and now South Australia are in lockdown at the time of writing, Australian futurist Paul Higgins emphasises the difference between the original Covid strains and the now prevalent Delta variant:
Climate change at the top of the agenda *again* this week:
#Firemappers is an integrated Wildfire Early Notification Map of the US, currently showing 385 reported (and verified) wildfires burning mostly in the Western US:
Simultaneously Aotearoa joined Germany to reel from the effects of another major flooding event. The South Island town of Westport (pop. just under 5000) was completely flooded out over the weekend and the ongoing viability of the town is being called into question. (Huge sympathy for West Coast communities afflicted by cumulative economic setbacks including loss of coal mining, a tourism shutdown due to border closures and now dealing with a major natural disaster - people must be reaching their limits of resilience. Kia kaha.)
What happened in Westport this week and South Canterbury last month is likely to repeat for all low lying population centres built on a flood plain….who will be able to afford home insurance? In Australia more people are dropping home insurance as global reinsurers push up premiums due to increased extreme weather events. It’s happening here too.
What are the alternatives to relocating a whole town? A quick internet search showed up:
A UK developer is working on a flood-proof house that can be “jacked up" on stilts in the event of a flood.
A more interesting concept is the high density / low rise “Orbital Housing” concept from Envelope architects which proposes a raised “ring” walkway around each circle of houses with a bridge providing safe walking access up to 1.6m above ground level in the event of a flood.
Take a look at this Pinterest page with 110 Flood Resilient Houses.
Perhaps out of this disaster Westport can become the first town in the world with every new building raised 2 metres above the ground?
While all of this was going on, a section of Aotearoa’s rural community took their $100,000+ tractors to town to protest against…what exactly? Got mainstream news coverage for a day (aided by a feral anti-Cindy contingent), annoyed people who got stuck in Tāmaki Makaurau traffic for 5 minutes longer than usual… but I sense that the urban majority quickly moved on…
Bigger picture: climate change is affecting agriculture differently depending on location. Aotearoa will probably be spared the worst of it in the short run at least…
…Even bigger picture: as covered last week, with global protein supply chains being fundamentally reshaped around synthetic production systems (which are orders of magnitude more efficient and less polluting), traditional farming feels to me like it’s going the same way as coal and oil. Get out while you can?
Memia’s regular curation of signals from the future…
Twitter killed Fleets1 after only 8 months. On the one hand this (euthanasing unused features) is a sign of fearless software innovation…on the other, worth pondering that most undercapitalised Kiwi startups wouldn’t survive a misstep like this - it helps to have a multi billion dollar market cap…
👮Practical AI [ethics]
Practical AI: University of Washington researchers published RoseTTAFold - a faster, freely available protein folding AI model which matches DeepMind’s AlphaFold2 accuracy.
Practical AI ethics (1): Ngā Pirihimana o Aotearoa / New Zealand Police issued an external report on “Safe and Ethical Use Of Algorithms” - which was *gently deconstructed* by the Colin Gavaghan-led Expert Panel on Emergent Technologies. Yes, the language of both reports is all very polite and just a little abstract for action…but personally I find it reassuring that we have this level of transparency and oversight at this early stage. Keep it up.
Practical AI ethics (2): the documentary Roadrunner about the life and death of US celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain includes a few “deepfaked” lines of dialogue which used AI to digitally re-create Bourdain’s voice and synthesize the audio of three quotes. Filmmaker Morgan Neville quipped:
‘We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later’
🐁Clip clippety clop on the bridge
(OMG that earworm from the distant past just popped into my head…!)
The world’s first 3D printed steel bridge was installed in Amsterdam:
Emissions-free flights come a step closer: aerospace startup Eviation unveiled Alice, the world’s first all-electric commuter plane, aiming to deliver the first units to a customer in 2022:
The Future of interior design is here already:
A striking infographic in this week’s Economist which illustrates Aotearoa’s ongoing tightrope dance of “independent foreign policy”:
Last week I linked to futurist thinktank RethinkX’s 2019 report on the future of Food and Agriculture. I spent a rainy weekend in Taranaki reading their longer 2020 Future of Humanity e-book: a sweeping survey across civilisational history and then looking out to an accelerating future arriving now. Cogent and compelling, challenging reading:
“The response from today’s incumbents to these [global change] challenges – more centralization, more extraction, more exploitation, more compromise of public health and environmental integrity in the name of competitive advantage and growth – is no less desperate than the response from those of prior civilizations who called for more walls, more priests, and more blood sacrifices as they faced collapse.”
🤐The Neuroscience of Taking Turns in a Conversation: Research in birds suggests that when one partner speaks, the other partner’s brain is inhibited from talking over them.
🟤🔑Kiwis doing it for themselves…
Auckland-based, dual-listed GPS fleet-tracking firm Eroad announced it is buying Tāmaki Makaurau neighbour Coretex for NZ$188.25m.
Also Auckland-based, Quantifi Photonics, a leader in optical test and measurement equipment, raised NZ$15 million for expansion from local investors including Kiwisaver fund Simplicity.
…while AU/NZ also coming together:
Microsoft is pulling together its Australian and New Zealand businesses into a combined A/NZ region rather than AoNZ reporting in to Singapore.
Digital Twins, for all is a blueprint for a “Digital Twin marketplace” across Australia and New Zealand launched by the Smart Cities Council.
A diverse trio of links to finish off with…
Via Cannes, startup Meme Of The Week:
🦙 Alpacalypse Now: Turns out this photo is from a few years ago but the whole thread is hilarious:
🌏Finding Point Nemo:
Thanks as always to everyone who gets in touch with thoughts, feedback, links - always appreciated!
And if you enjoy Memia, please take the time to share with a friend in Aotearoa or around the 🌎🌍🌏.
As someone well outside the target demographic I’ve never understood the attraction of Snapchat-style autodeleting social media… clearly not alone!