Memia 2021.33: Delta straining😷// sucking all the oxygen out of the room😮‍💨// per diem💸// poly-timorous🕵️// sounds electric to me🛩️// rewilding Aotearoa🌱

Spread Your Legs, Not The Virus

Kia ora,

Welcome to another Memia newsletter - as usual scanning across emerging tech, new ideas and thinking about the future from (still Level 4 lockdown!) Aotearoa New Zealand. Thanks for being here!

The most clicked link in the last issue (8% of openers) was (2nd week running) the new online-only grocery store Supie. The rest of the clicks were more evenly spread than usual… 4% each for Native Land Atlas, Björk’s 11 favourite albums, the impressive OpenAI Codex live demo and AI21’s Jurassic-1 announcement. Something for everyone.😇

😷Delta straining

(For readers outside Aotearoa, the entire country has been in a full Level 4 lockdown since Wednesday last week after the Covid-19 Delta variant breached the managed isolation facilities at the border. After living in a paradisical #nzhellhole bubble for over a year, the looming reality of an extended lockdown - like the rest of the world has been experiencing for 18 months - is starting to hit home.)

I’m aware that we’re pummeled by minute-to-minute Covid updates from all quarters, but…here are a few links / data points / observations which have helped me think about how things might play out in a time of great uncertainty, hope useful:

[Weak] signals

This week’s tech signals come from a range of futures, some rather absurd…

😮‍💨Sucking all the oxygen out of the room

Two celebrity US tech CEOs sucked all the oxygen out of the tech media room this week with half-baked banality:

(…If I was an investor in Facebook I’d be looking carefully at how much more the “metaverse” strategy is going to cost before generating any revenues…)

📈Crypto back up

  • In case no-one noticed, crypto markets have recovered with total market cap exceeding US$2Trillion again and Bitcoin surging back above $US50K this week. (Regulation, what regulation?)

💸Per Diem

  • Also last week, F2 (“Facebook Financial”) came out of hiding, with its head David Marcus introducing the new Novi wallet, designed to work on the forthcoming Diem payments network: Good stablecoins, a protocol for money, and digital wallets: the formula to fix our broken payment system. It’s an interesting read, strongly hinting that Diem will work as a set of “stablecoins” backed by liquid reserves and regulated in the US. This provides the “consumer protection”, AML and tax compliance controls that decentralised cryptos don’t. Sounds like there’s been over 3 years of conversations with regulators since they first announced Libra (now the Diem Association).

  • He also pretty much lays out F2’s Novi business strategy:

    “We [tech companies like Facebook] first focus on addressing big problems for people at scale. Eventually, a path to sustain the work through monetization is found. In this case, our business model is very clear. We’re a challenger in the payments industry, and we will offer free person-to-person payments domestically and internationally for people using the Novi wallet. We trust that people will prefer a service that is cost free and more convenient to ones that are significantly more expensive and not consumer-centric. Once we have a meaningful customer base, we can offer cheaper merchant payments to businesses around the world and still make a profit margin on merchant services. We can then branch out and offer a variety of other financial services in partnership with respected and well regulated partners, and expand from there.”

  • There’s also a nod to the real meaning of the Metaverse:

    “Thinking about money in the Metaverse is actually very helpful in how we approach designing our products and the underlying infrastructure to support them. After all, if money and payments systems were invented today for a digital-only world, what would they look like? They certainly wouldn’t look like our current infrastructure. A global, open, interoperable, near real-time, cheap, compliant global protocol for money would be required to enable people, creators, and businesses to move money around seamlessly and to innovate via programmable money. “

  • Facebook is certainly moving into a red ocean here - incumbents and challengers will fight tooth and nail for market share of payments. But if F2 has managed to solve the regulatory challenges in the US then expect Novi payments to expand exponentially across the Facebook / WhatsApp / Instagram installed user base globally (ex.-China, of course) before local regulators get much more of a look-in.

🕵️Poly-timorous

🔋Thinking ahead about batteries

🖨️More 3D construction

💨Bladeless wind energy

  • Finally, I just discovered tech communicator Matt Ferrell’s excellent “Undecided” YouTube channel - here’s a comprehensive recent video on the latest bladeless wind energy innovations.

Mind expanding

Angus Hervey lets rip with a visceral two-sided essay Collapse and Renewal in Future Crunch:

“Catastrophe is in the air. Days ago, the largest peer-reviewed process of all time confirmed that we are in the midst of the greatest planetary crisis we’ve faced since we came down from the trees. July was the hottest month ever recorded; the Earth is hotter than it has been at any moment since the beginning of the last Ice Age…

…The Arctic will be ice free soon and our grandchildren probably won't see the coral reefs, and yet the few thousand bankers, industrialists and politicians responsible for this, the greatest of all crimes, switch tactics from denial to delay, clutching their forty pieces of silver to the grave. Under smoke-red skies ageing billionaires ride their metal phalluses into the heavens, with wrinkled lips and sneers of cold command. Back here on Planet Earth, tin pot tech emperors sell soma dreams of The Metaverse to the masses, even as billions of their fellow human beings struggle to put food on the table.”

…Read to the end, it gets significantly more optimistic! (🎩Kaila Colbin for sharing).

Rollcall

Just room for one local namecheck this week:

🛩️Sounds electric to me

Hidden gems

Two nuggets this week:

🦵#SpreadYourLegsNZ

  • Health Minister Chris Hipkins is one of the more competent government ministers I’ve known in my lifetime and usually very calm under pressure. But this slip of the tongue at the daily lockdown briefing is pure gold and spawned a joyous outpouring on the Twitter hashtag #SpreadYourLegsNZ that night. (Everyone’s seen this clip already, but sharing once more…🤣)

🌱Rewilding Aotearoa

  • The science of rewilding: we should try this with a few fields in Aotearoa. 60 years should just about do it.

That’s all for this week…thanks as always for getting in touch with thoughts, feedback, links - appreciated!

See you next week, Level 4 or not!

Ngā mihi

Ben