Memia 2021.37: debt inheritance💣// AUSUNK🚣// talking 'bout regeneration🌱// exponential meat🥩//blimp my ride🎈// how to queue🧍🧍🧍
Don't bother copying us. We will win.🖕
Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter - your regular scan across emerging tech, new ideas and thinking about the future - always with one eye on my corner of the world: Aotearoa.
🖱️The most clicked link in the last issue (9% of openers) was The Juice Media’s latest Honest Government Ad: Carbon Capture and Storage. Right answer.
🎙️I really enjoyed recording this podcast conversation with Waikato-based bio-entrepreneur Rachel Kelly. Take a listen and let me know who else I should talk to around the motu…
Aotearoa house price inflation hit 31.1% in the year to August. The spectre of multi-generational mortgages looms unless there is a radical redistribution of wealth in the next decade or so. The current global financial system, exacerbated by never-ending central bank quantitative easing, keeps heading in only one direction...
🍟🍗Still lockdown, but with KFC
👏Well done Tāmaki Makaurau, into Level 3 (=“Level 4 with takeaways”) as of midnight last night, albeit with a “long tail” of community cases still turning up (thanks again to @farmgeek for the daily pandemic #CovidGraph mahi):for Sep 21 - Day 35 of L4 (Auckland). 14 new community cases, 1085 community cases in total. 790 recoveries gives us 295 active cases. Steady as she goes.
ICYMI, “Shot Bro” vaccine buses are now doing the rounds in Tāmaki Makaurau.💯
Touch and go now whether the virus gets completely eliminated and we get one last summer of South Pacific bubble life without endemic Covid… OR whether it just simmers away until vaccination rates reach a sufficiently high level (70%? 80% 90%?) to *begin* opening up…?😬
CNN reported that 1 in 500 US residents have died of Covid-19. (That’s equivalent to 10,000 of the “team of 5 million”).
The latest Covid opening-up roadmap modelling from Victoria forecasts over 2200 deaths Jul-Dec 2021, assuming 80% over 16yo double-dose vaccination rate. Alex Psiredes is co-director of Wellington ICU and shared his thoughts on Twitter:
Cameron Knott @KnottCameronHere’s the map. I hope we can follow it without too many detours: Victoria’s Roadmap: Delivering The National Plan | Premier of Victoria https://t.co/kf4koVEpTV
This week’s word to watch: Evergrande.
🌏On top of the world
On a brighter note, as Te Wiki o te Reo Māori ended for another year, I am all for this:
(Imagine all that time saved no longer mis-clicking on Namibia or New Caledonia…!!!)
In a geopolitical handbrake turn (uncannily timed just after the, er, *hurried* US pullout from Afghanistan), Australia announced it was cancelling an existing nuclear sub order with France and instead jumping feet-first into a new “AUKUS” alliance with the UK and US. Most of the headlines were about Australia’s decision to purchase US and UK nuclear sub technology, but also of note in the communique:
“today we also embark on further trilateral collaboration under AUKUS to enhance our joint capabilities and interoperability. These initial efforts will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.”
Needless to say, Aotearoa was not invited (and wouldn’t have joined for obvious reasons).
Too many hot takes to link to, highlights include:
Hugh White, emeritus professor of strategic studies at Australian National University: From the submarine to the ridiculous:
“The [current] Collins class are 3000 tonnes. The now-abandoned French-designed Attack class were going to be 4500 tonnes. The American and British that we are now looking at are more than 7000 tonnes. That is a lot of boat…The PM has acknowledged that we will now not see the first of the new nuclear-powered submarines in service before 2040…[Scott Morrison] has tied Australia to a deal that undermines our sovereign capabilities, overspends on hardware we can barely be confident of operating, and drags us closer to the front line of a war we may have no interest in fighting.”
Geoffrey Miller: New Zealand could be the big winner of Aukus fallout.
Robert Patman, professor of International Relations at Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou: Why Aukus is unlikely to halt China's assertive foreign policy.
Bernard Hickey as, the day after, China applied formally to join the CPTPP, China tries forcing us to choose:
“The reverberations from yesterday’s big AUKUS deal to arm Australia with nuclear-powered submarines have already started for us. China just put us on the spot to choose it over Australia, the United States and Britain in a trade deal…
…We should agree to let China apply and say it’s up to all the members to agree [for them] to join. We should also invite America to reapply and see whether Joe Biden is more amenable than Donald Trump. That then puts us in a position to get a sort of free trade deal with America via the CPTPP, which is the one big one we lack. We may as well use some leverage…Our only real power is as a rules-based free-trading ‘honest broker’ who wants to be friends with everyone and prefers ‘jaw jaw’ to ‘war war’. Choosing to reject China would really mean we have sided with the Anglo-alliance, which is very much nuclear powered and armed. That’s something we have a law against.”
The Civilian on form:
My 2¢: while not an expert on military tech, I do know that AU$90 billion (the previous price of 12 French subs) would buy a lot of pretty sophisticated underwater drone technology and autonomous navigation systems. And by 2040 it’s *not unlikely* that there will be swarms of [armed] autonomous underwater drones marauding around the world’s oceans able to spot a 7,000-tonne crewed submarine from kms away…
Feels like yesterday’s [expensive, obsolete] technology for yesterday’s [etc…] political narrative…
🌱Talking ‘bout regeneration
Closer to home: environmental restoration advocate Geoff Reid gave a stark presentation at the recent Environmental Defence Society annual conference. His aerial videography of the impacts of intensive farming, forestry and native forest ecosystem loss paints a grim picture of plainly unregulated environmental vandalism in Aotearoa:
(🎩Paul Sapsford for the pointer).
It can all get pretty depressing watching this. There are deeply-embedded economic incentives which continue to drive this behaviour. Re-imagining these feels like the urgent task at hand…
To this end, there are a few notable developments here in Aotearoa:
Trees are now worth more than cows as the carbon price soars: The Spinoff reports on recent analysis of carbon credits market:
“New Zealand’s carbon price is at a record high, which means planting pine trees will now fetch farmers more money than raising sheep and beef.”
…Which is good news for New Zealand Carbon Farming. Founded in 2010, NZCF is one of Aotearoa’s largest forest managers, with over 90,000 hectares of forest under management - by the end of this year they aim to have over 73 million trees. Their model is to plant exotic pine forests on marginal farming land and then over time let indigeneous trees take over. Over the last decade, NZCF estimates forests under its management have sucked in more than 20 million tonnes of CO2 – only the equivalent of almost a quarter of the whole country’s annual emissions. Their business model is to sell carbon credits to large (fossil fuel) energy and transport businesses to offset.
(However some researchers cast doubt on the financial viability of NZCF’s pine-to-native forest strategy.)
I got quite excited when I donated my $20 to the startup team at Regenerate New Zealand, who are doing research in a parallel space to shape a crowd-funded 100-year vision:
“Regenerate New Zealand Pine Tree Blocks back to Native Forests within 100 years, by enabling everyday New Zealanders to profitably invest as little as $20 per month.”
I’m always a bit sceptical of “regenerative agriculture” messaging because it is an intangible concept to measure and model scientifically. That said, Toha is a well-backed Aotearoa startup building a distinctive global marketplace with climate and environmental impact at its heart:
“Our collective goal is to make New Zealand the first country to achieve economic prosperity by fully regenerating our environment.”
Talking about economic incentives, back in 2014 DOC provided Guidance on Good Practice Biodiversity Offsetting in New Zealand:
“It is important to recognise that no single currency can adequately account for all affected biodiversity”
In 2016, New South Wales established a biodiversity offset credit scheme which property developers are required to obtain if a development involves clearing of native vegetation.
Right now, a robust Aotearoa “biodiversity credit“ financial instrument feels urgently needed as we approach forthcoming ecological crises. (Anyone working on this?)
Kaila Colbin lays out “the exponentials of food” in Lab-grown meat is definitely going to be a thing. Like renewable energy, cultured meat prices are on the cusp of disrupting animal-farming systems, forever:
(See also Ross Dawson: 8 pioneering companies creating sustainable lab-grown meat).
🚀Civvies in space
SpaceX’s successful 3-day all-civilian Inspiration 4 mission just opened a new era in private spaceflight.
🎈Blimp my ride
Hybrid helium / aerodynamic airships can carry over 200 people and deliver a 75 per cent reduction in carbon emissions compared to standard kerosene-burning airplanes. (A bit slower, though…)
The SCMP reports that Chinese military researchers have may have cracked how to land a hypersonic drone - solving the problem of flight control computers’ inability to calculate a descent quickly enough at Mach 5.
Researchers at UC San Francisco have developed a “speech neuroprosthesis”, enabling a man with severe paralysis to communicate in sentences, translating signals from his brain to the vocal tract directly into words that appear as text on a screen. In early trials, the system is able to understand a vocabulary of 50 words, with a speech rate of 18 words per minute and an accuracy of 93%.
This week’s long read:
Ross Ulbricht, currently serving two life sentences without parole in the US for operating the clandestine Silk Road marketplace (see freeross.org), is at least using his time productively, laying out a detailed design white paper for how to decentralise social media.
Three nuggets from around the interweb this week:
🧍🧍🧍How to queue
From the Tokyo Times, this timelapse video of Japanese crowd control recorded at Comiket, a semi-annual Tokyo comic book fair that usually gathers over 500,000 people. Just try that here.
🖕Don’t bother copying us
💯Full marks to IoT wearable maker Whoop for their IP protection strategy (below) - I’ve been wearing my Whoop 3.0 wristband for a few months now to monitor and improve cardio and sleep performance - my Whoop 4.0 is on order adding skin temperature and blood oxygen sensors…recommended. (Get a free WHOOP 4.0 and your first month free when you join with this affiliate link - still no direct shipping from the US, you have to use YouShop or similar from AoNZ).
⌨️RIP Clive Sinclair
Remembering legendary British inventor Clive Sinclair who died this week aged 81. He was the creative genius behind the revolutionary ZX81 and ZX Spectrum home computers launched in the early 1980s, together with the 40-years-ahead-of-its-time Sinclair C5 e-trike:
That’s a wrap for another week…thanks as always for getting in touch with your thoughts, feedback, links - appreciated! And please add your comments below if anything catches your attention this week.
Enjoy your takeaways Tāmaki Makaurau!