Memia 2021.34: 🧑💻Zoomers vs 🗣️boomers // new economic attractors🧲// meta-metaverse🌐🥽// IP-NFTs💡🔐// underhyped cycle📉// 3d-printed wagyu🥩//Icarus on top💸
The math says egalitarianism is possible🧮
Another Wednesday, another Memia newsletter - your regular weekly scan across emerging tech, new ideas and thinking about the future from (split level 3/4 lockdown) Aotearoa New Zealand.
There were five “most clicked links” in the last issue with 7% of openers each…(hypothesis: people have more time to read in lockdown?). They were:
Supie (3rd week in a row)
Chris Hipkins’ “spread your legs” moment (and Ashley’s eyebrows)
😷On the current Covid outbreak: sharing a couple of graph views on the raw case data:
Below from Auckland-based Camryn Brown illustrates daily reported raw case numbers compared to recent outbreaks across the ditch. Open to interpretation (strictness of lockdown, testing vs. case detection rate etc…) but clearly could still go either way.🤞
And John Hart’s rebooted daily lockdown graph updates also tell a sobering story about the Delta variant:
📱Also of note this week: Andrew Chen digs deep into the details behind why NZ COVID Tracer app bluetooth tracing data isn’t being used for contact notifications during this outbreak.
🙏🙏🙏So… a big shout out to readers in Level 4 Tāmaki Makaurau! (Especially if you’re affected by yesterday’s flooding event…) Thank you for going without takeaway coffee☕ [and other essential items] for at least 2 weeks longer than the rest of us…hang on in there team.👏
🧑💻Zoomers vs 🗣️Boomers
As flagged last week, the opposition refused to agree for Parliament to reconvene remotely by videoconference during Level 4… like, er, every other information worker does, for hours every day.🤦
TBH I’m not across the legal intricacies of how this decision played out but it feels like a missed opportunity to set a precedent and modernise proceedings once and for all for the future: Instituting hybrid sitting rules so that if *certain people* absolutely feel the need to take a taxpayer-paid, CO2-spewing flight to get to Wellington in person and stand up in an empty wood-panelled chamber in their finest “business” attire…they’re welcome. But every other duly elected Member of Parliament in 2021 should just be able to Zoom (etc…) in remotely from wherever they are…. perhaps even their own home in their own constituency!…and participate fully. (Would be way more productive too as the speaker would be able to mute the barracking).
Feels like a misreading of the room on National and ACT’s part.
For the record, this was a rather aspirational section from Judith Collins’ National Party AGM speech just 3 weeks ago… so what planet is she on now?
“The technology sector represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand. Tech is one of the world’s most highly productive and fastest growing industries. With potential to deliver fulfilling, exciting, high-paying jobs of the future for our young people. It will enhance our existing industries. Help us meet our sustainability and climate change obligations and drive many of the solutions we need in the primary sector. It will drive productivity gains across the entire economy and mean that kiwis will earn more.”
🧲New economic attractors
More tales of tech talent wars in the age of work-from-anywhere:
Tech Workers Are Living the American Dream—in Canada: Toronto and other Canadian cities are benefiting from work permits issued to highly skilled immigrants in weeks, and permanent residency—the equivalent of a US green card—in less than six months. But:
“Canada's immigration policy is hardly warm and fuzzy. On the contrary, it's icily calculating. The government loves educated, elite newcomers, because they help propel the economy… but it wants them young, so they won't drain the public health care system. Their parents are much less welcome.”
(As we know right now Aotearoa’s borders are firmly closed to inbound talent right now for pandemic reasons — and let’s not forget chronic housing shortages too — but it’s a sounding bell that the race is always on…)
24 countries including Mexico, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Germany and Taiwan are now offering variations on a “Digital Nomad” visa.
Conversely, last week Stuff led with the headline: Silicon Valley poaching Kiwi talent with $150,000 salaries for grads:
“A graduate software engineer in New Zealand is looking at a salary of $50,000 or 60,000. In the US the starting salary is $150,000 not including signing bonuses and stock. This is impossible to compete with,”
- Sajeewa Dayaratne, VP Engineering at Coretex
(The same article notes that Google now has 50 staff working in Aotearoa).
I’ve made my views known on this before… this feels like local tech firms need to just get with the play and hire talent they *can* afford from all around our timezone - not just here in Aotearoa. Hire the best people in the world for the job, not just the best people within 30km.
Corollary: regional economic development strategy will change fundamentally too: is any large high-tech business in the future actually looking to make a significant inward investment in an Aotearoan city ever again? I doubt it. But maybe they would welcome some support to settle a small number of their workforce into the country.... Forward-thinking local EDAs should be running campaigns to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba, Tencent, Atlassian...(etc) to provide support for remote workers who want to relocate to that region. (Way easier and less cost than always trying to get one tech giant to build a huge new campus..?)
Key attractors: low-friction immigration / ubiquitous fast, reliable broadband, liveability, *housing*, access to flexible co-working / meeting spaces… just make it easy and they will come.
Weekly curation of tech signals from near and far futures…
Gartner released its annual Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2021. This year’s collation of 25 technologies is grouped under three themes:
I note NFTs (only just added this year) perched precariously…
2021’s Hype Cycle feels less imaginative than previous ones - for example no “Smart Dust” (2018), “Flying Autonomous Vehicles” (2019) or “Bidirectional Brain-Machine Interfaces” (2020). Maybe more accurate for it.
Following on from the underwhelming reveal of Facebook Workrooms last week:
Kelly Pendergrast writes in Business Insider: Silicon Valley has given up on reality – and now they want us all to use their terrible new alternative:
“…the dreary contours of Facebook’s new foray into “intense VR” for collaboration shows that even metaverse work spaces – where truly anything is possible – are likely to be grim, banal replicas of already-depressing physical work spaces, with added data extraction.”
Perhaps Zuck could get his team to knock up a Facebook Workroom of the Parliamentary Debating Chamber for the Nats and ACT?😜
…All of which leads down predictable lines about the “bifurcation of the Metaverse” before it happens: a Western Metaverse (Facebook) and a Chinese Metaverse (Bytedance/Tiktok) built on non-interoperable standards - but both centralised and - as tipped way back in Memia 2020.03 - fundamentally built upon surveillance tech.
However, Kelly’s article above also references a group of artists and researchers from NYU who last year collectively developed an open-source live, 3D virtual space for gathering online.
It feels like there’s a “Meta-Metaverse” to be built on a decentralised, open source tech stack - with bridges between mainstream platforms - and likely supported by some form of crypto-token economics… scanning this space, let me know what you’ve seen.1
As the Washington Post reports that Our patent system is broken. And it could be stifling innovation (no! never…) a new IP model has been tried out for the first time by VitaDAO, a DAO focused on longevity research.
The world’s first decentralised “IP-NFT”, for funding new biopharma research and data, has been purchased for US$325,000 by VitaDAO. According to Paul Kohlhaas, the brains behind the scheme, the IP-NFT token performs 3 functions:
Enables funding, liquidity and valuation of IP and research
Transacts the real-world legal rights/licenses of the IP (required for patents)
Secures access control to the underlying research data
Highly innovative and practical use case for NFTs (rather than just trading CryptoPunks or Marvel characters…) but the underlying legal framework of "owning" "intellectual" "property", DAO or not, is still fundamentally inconsistent with how ideas and digital information spread at lightspeed in the 2020s. (*And* what if the token gets lost or burnt somehow? Who “owns” the legal rights then?)
Nuclear power in space
NASA announced nuclear thermal propulsion reactor concept awards, selecting three reactor design concept proposals for a nuclear thermal propulsion system
Anna Pendergrast rightly asks: given our nascent space industry, how might this affect Aotearoa’s nuclear-free policy in future?
Shipping container factories
Food and consumer goods giant Unilever provided details of a new modular and portable 'nano factory' which fits inside a 40-foot shipping container and is able to produce around 300 tons of bouillon (liquid stock in a bottle) per eight-hour shift.
The US NSA just released an 8-page FAQs on the topic of Post-Quantum Cryptography:
“Q: What is the threat if a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer (CRQC) were developed?
A: If realizable, a CRQC would be capable of undermining the widely deployed public key algorithms used for asymmetric key exchanges and digital signatures. … Without effective mitigation, the impact of adversarial use of a quantum computer could be devastating to National Security Systems[NSS] and our nation, especially in cases where such information needs to be protected for many decades.
Q: Is NSA worried about the threat posed by a potential quantum computer because a CRQC exists?
A: NSA does not know when or even if a quantum computer of sufficient size and power to exploit public key cryptography (a CRQC) will exist.”
You sense they’re *slightly* worried.🤐
A couple of pieces of reading which got me thinking this week:
😬Niall Ferguson in the Economist($wall) takes a historian’s view of the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan: Why the end of America’s empire won’t be peaceful: America’s decline mirrors Britain’s a century ago, inviting wider conflict. Fantastic essay.
🧮The Math That Says Egalitarianism Is Possible: apparently you don’t have to be entirely pessimistic about the future of wealth inequality.
Around the motu this week:
RocketLab completed its merger with SPAC Vector Acquisition Corp and debuted on NASDAQ at a staggering US$5.2Bn valuation.
💸Aotearoa game studio RocketWerkz topped the global Steam sales charts with the beta launch of its stunning new multiplayer planet colonization game Icarus. (Now THAT’s a metaverse…)
My good friend Kaila Colbin hangs up her hat after organising 10(!) TEDxChristchurch conferences: I went to nearly every one, some of my warmest and most thought-provoking memories living in this city, congratulations and looking forward to hearing what’s on next with Boma!
Finally, three links I enjoyed this week, hope you do too.
Why does the sunlight come from the north in shaded relief maps, even in the northern hemisphere?
Rick Astley and Dave Grohl performing together is something I thought I would never see. It happened.
NFTs before they were called NFTs:
Another week down…thanks to everyone who gets in touch with thoughts, feedback, links - always appreciated!
See you next week. Kia kaha Tāmaki Makaurau!💪