Memia 2021.41: Hopium💭// crypto:1 CCP:0🥅// how to win the future?🔜// caffeine hit☕// floating pods🌊// reinventing social welfare🙆
Up up up and away
Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter - the usual eclectic scan across emerging tech and the unfolding future from Aotearoa New Zealand. Thanks for being here!
The most clicked link in the last issue (11% of openers) was Australian climate scientist Will Steffen’s stark projections of global rising temperatures.
In Covid-19 news (is there any other kind of news any more!?):
🦠MoH removed the “Beta” tag from the My Covid Record website. It’s simple and it works. Well done.
🙄At least 2 more weeks of Level 3 GroundHog Day for Tāmaki Makaurau and Waikato folks… and an announcement of an announcement for an imminent new “traffic light framework”: we find out on Friday what the “new normal” of fluctuating regional restriction levels will look like through 2022 and beyond.
Expectations are the new regime will kick in when the country reaches 90% 💉💉. Recent stats:
And presumably it includes a tentative plan for the borders reopening…by when? To where?
‼️Also worth marking this week: a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation to help increase housing supply to address the ongoing affordability crisis: Labour and National parties agreed to an amendment of the [1991-vintage] Resource Management Act, setting new housing intensification rules allowing up to 3 homes, 3 storeys high to be built on most sites without resource consent. So that was easy. Next…?So...will Labour and National now reach agreements on infrastructure, water and transport so all those can be quickly built/repaired too? That's not asking for too much, surely
Many people around the world (and our corner in particular) are pinning their hopes on clean (“green”) hydrogen as a solution to our CO2-emitting energy economy - and committing serious public funding to develop it.
Toronto-based chemical process engineer Paul Martin shot into my feed this week with this post commenting on the US DoE’s project to produce “clean” hydrogen from nuclear power:
(His profile refers to “Hopium” - the fuel which powers “green-wishing”)
Paul co-authored this article from February: Green Hydrogen: Big Oil’s Last Grand Scam?
“Most people think of green hydrogen when they think of hydrogen. But fossil fuel companies are suggesting that the “hydrogen economy” could get started out running on brown hydrogen, then switch later on to blue hydrogen, and yet later on to green hydrogen, as CCS and finally electrolyzer technology becomes less expensive. Despite the theoretical low CO2 emissions of blue hydrogen (assuming methane leaks are solved, CCS developed and paid for, hydrogen transport infrastructure developed, etc.), they know it will always be cheaper to simply dump the CO2 in the atmosphere than capture it. So, voters and investors might think they’re getting green hydrogen funded by Covid-19 relief packages, but they are actually being propositioned with polluting blue hydrogen, and will most likely end up with more brown hydrogen.”
But they then argue that this approach will not lead to long-term survival of these oil companies:
“Because of the “dematerialization” effect associated with the energy transition, there will be less operating income to be collected in the new energy system than in fossil fuel production. Thus, only the fossil fuel companies which pursue these [decarbonisation] opportunities now are likely to still exist within a decade or two.”
Interesting background context to refer to when that Tiwai Point business case comes around again…
The hurried timing of the CCP’s September crackdown on cryptocurrencies surely had nothing to do with restricting capital outflows just in time before the Evergrande debt crisis hit…?
“In 2015-16, when China was trying to rein in massive capital outflows and stanch a steep depreciation of the currency, demand for Bitcoin from within China spiked as people used it to take money out of the country and evade the government’s controls. Beijing now sees cryptocurrencies as conduits for evasion of capital controls.”
As previously covered, Decentralised Exchanges (DEXs) and DeFi protocols have been the main beneficiaries:
“According to data from Chainalysis, there has been a significant amount of regional Bitcoin flows happening within eastern Asia…this suggests that crypto holders in the region have been shifting around their holdings in response to the regulatory crackdown…The lack of flows out of Eastern Asia, combined with crypto exchanges like Huobi and Binance suspending services for Chinese residents, suggests that funds are being kept within the region — but not on centralized exchanges.”
And the capital is certainly still flowing: since the Chinese crackdown (and concurrent US regulatory sabre rattling), crypto markets are currently on another surge, Bitcoin up 50% from the September low point to US$62K yesterday.
Also of note, some of the biggest winners appear to be miners in the US and Kazakhstan:
…Satoshi Nakamoto, what a mind.
Memia’s weekly curation of tech signals from near and far futures…
🔜How To Win The Future?
Silicon Valley VC firm Andreesen Horowitz front-footed slowcoach tech regulators: An Agenda For The Future of the internet - releasing a new “policy agenda for the third generation of the internet”: How to Win the Future, part of a new web3 policy hub.
Despite the hyperbolic title, it’s a comprehensive, clear and informative read and explains a lot of the hype around Web3 in easy to understand language and diagrams:
…But what is a VC firm doing drafting policy agendas and generally going on a hiring spree across multiple fronts?? Dror Poleg has a theory: Andreessen pulls a Bezos:
Andreessen is taking a page out of Amazon's book. Jeff Bezos famously said, "Your margin is my opportunity”…A16Z is doing the same thing to the venture capital industry. It is not just acting strategically in order to gain an advantage. It is imposing a whole new cost structure on its competitors.”
A new paper on Approximate Differentiable One-Pixel Point Rendering gives a mind-blowing glimpse of the future: create completely immersible, photo-realistic 3D renderings… from just a few photos. Check out this video for the demo:
Leading technology coach Rodolfo Ronsini wrote a thread on how the potential applications are endless:
Recreate historical scenes in VR from old photos
Recreate famous events in VR - concerts? Political rallies?
Generate a library of “digital twins” of real places around the world from massive photo libraries curated by tech giants like Snap, Apple, Google…
Let the AI imagine fantasy scenes to fill in the gaps between the real…🤯
Eco-friendly, lab-grown coffee is on the way in only a few years - the Guardian surveys four synthetic coffee startups.
🎈Up up up and away
Can’t quite afford that spot next to William Shatner on Jeff Bezos’ big *rocket*? Two new companies have announced their entry to the “budget” end of space exploration:
Space Perpective raises US$40M Series A for stratospheric balloon rides (US$125,000 for a 6-12 hour flight):
“the Space Perspective balloon ride will look and feel more like a first-class commercial flight with any major airline today, rather than an astronaut launch. Customers will apparently have access to Wi-Fi and even a bar.”
Back down here on the planet’s surface, French company Anthénea makes luxury sea “pods” with underfloor windows- effectively a floating hotel suite - which can be joined together with floating walkways. Interesting eco-tourism concept for a country with a long coastline or large lakefronts…
I’ve been researching deeper on CBDCs (for my sins) - absorbing two recent speeches from Jon Cunliffe, Head of Financial Stability at the Bank of England:
From May this year: Do we need "public money"?
(The advent of stablecoins has sharpened my focus on the difference between “public” (central bank money and cash) and “private” (commercial bank) money supply…after decades of naively operating on the principle that were effectively the same thing…they’re not).
Last week: a high-profile speech on crypto-regulation: Is ‘crypto’ a financial stability risk?
A: not yet, but likely yes in future, so *let’s get regulating, chaps*:
A couple of shout-outs to people doing amazing work around the motu:
Double congratulations to my mate Tim Hatherley-Greene: not only for becoming a dad for the 2nd time - but also part of the team launching Rea: a new IT skills learning platform accelerating people into paid technology sector jobs after just 6 months. This table makes compelling viewing:
“…the reason we are seeing a decline in wellbeing in western societies is that the powerful forces of capitalism and centralisation have caused an imbalance. This imbalance is caused by the free market and state becoming too powerful at the expense of the local community. The results include increasing inequality, a struggling social welfare system and declining wellbeing.
The Wellbeing Protocol thesis is based on a belief that systemic change is possible by leveraging new technology and new organisational/crypto-economic design patterns to challenge existing paradigms. The solution is described in the form of creating new local token economic systems built around decentralisation and localism principles.”
Refreshingly idealistic, look forward to next steps.
Just space for one nugget from the interweb:
Ain’t this the truth about “Digital Transformation”:
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.
Look after your wellbeing protocols Tāmaki Makaurau and Waikato whanau!