Memia 2021.42: The MADness of nuclear deterrence☢️// we built this city on NFTs🗽// proof-of-human (again)👁️// not hyperinflation?📈// technosocialism🦾✊// computer says no🚫
Kia ora and welcome to another Memia newsletter - scanning across emerging tech, global change and the future as it unfolds, from Aotearoa New Zealand.
(The memesphere’s gone a bit cray-cray this week…lots of BIG CANVAS ideas to process! Read on…)
The most clicked link in the last issue (11% of openers) was the amazing video on how to render a high-res immersible 3D environment from only a few photos: ADOP: Approximate Differentiable One-Pixel Point Rendering.
Also in the last week:
💉💉Aotearoa putting on a vaccine spurt (selected countries, population totals include under-15s):
…but still a way to go…Bernard Hickey estimating that the new “traffic light” target of 90% double-vaxxed nationwide is not likely until late December. (*DON’T* book-a-bach).
🔥😟Greenhouse gases hit a new high right ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow:
CO2 concentrations reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, up 2.5 ppm on the year before, 149 percent of the pre-industrial level in 1750.
Methane averages reached a new high of 1,889 parts per billion in 2020, up 11 ppb on the year before, 262 percent of the pre-industrial benchmark.
🥽Facebook is planning a Google→Alphabet -style group name change… some sleuthing uncovered that the Chan-Zuckerberg foundation purchased meta.com in 2017 so my hunch is on the blatantly obvious "Meta”.
Also ICYMI amidst the relentless anti-Facebook media noise… Facebook soft-launched its new Novi digital wallet last week.
☢️The MADness of nuclear deterrence
The latest Memia podcast is an eye-opening and sobering in-depth conversation on nuclear deterrence and disarmament with expert, New Zealander Lyndon Burford. The risks of nuclear war (.../winter...) never went away after the Cold War - and are arguably higher now than they have ever been. The most extreme takeaway for me from our discussion is that recent climate modelling of a “regional” nuclear conflict (eg between India and Pakistan) would likely devastate food security for more than one billion people worldwide.
Huge thanks to Lyndon for sharing his deep knowledge of a big topic - and also his innovative ideas about how to potentially leverage new technologies to incentivise and verify nuclear disarmament.
Take a listen and please add your feedback in the comments section.
Let me know which podcast topics Memia should cover next?
(Also of relevance is this recent episode of the BBC’s In Our Time: The Manhattan Project, which traces the story of the discovery of nuclear fission, the first use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the development of the concept of MAD - “mutually assured destruction”).
🗽We built this city on NFTs
Praxis is the latest charter city concept to hit the wires:
“a global community of creatives and technologists building a city that will never die”
The founders aim to build an entirely new city in the Mediterranean - funded by NFTs of the giant statues they intend to build. (There may some wait…the Discord channel only has 1170 members…)
(I previously covered proof-of-unique-personhood in Memia 2020.09)
Wow, this one split the internet down the middle. Could you get any more dystopian…or utopian?
Introducing Worldcoin, a new cryptocurrency project from Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI and the former president of Y Combinator - smart guy, right?):
“A new, collectively owned global currency that will be distributed fairly to as many people as possible.”
(Basically an airdrop to support a future universal basic income.)
“If a cryptocurrency were adopted at scale, it would vastly increase access to the internet economy and make applications possible that are now unimaginable. However, less than three percent of the world's population currently participates in cryptocurrency networks.
To rapidly get its new currency into the hands of as many people as possible, Worldcoin will allow everyone to claim a free share of it. For this to happen, we first had to solve one major challenge: ensuring that every person on Earth can prove that they are indeed human (not a bot) and that they have not received their free share of Worldcoin already. This challenge is the longstanding problem of "unique-humanness": how can you prove you are you, without telling us anything about yourself?”
Their answer: privacy-protecting iris scanning hardware, “The Orb”:
“To address it, we built a new device called the Orb. It solves the problem through biometrics: the Orb captures an image of a person’s eyes, which is converted into a short numeric code, making it possible to check whether the person has signed up already. If not, they receive their free share of Worldcoin.”
All completely normal, nothing to see here, then.
Sam Altman @samaIntroducing Worldcoin, a new cryptocurrency that will be distributed fairly to as many people as possible. Details about how it works: https://t.co/DLcAmUA4u3 https://t.co/xC3W2U6Xi3
As Ric McManus puts it: is this peak crypto?
“The Orb will in time be what the Pets.com sock puppet was to Dot Com.”
Time will tell - Worldcoin clearly a big ongoing experiment - but attempting to solve an important problem. As Vitalik Buterin wrote in 2019/2020:
(The more philosophical question is do you need an iris to be provably human? Or indeed any biological body parts? And what about the problem of generative AI - “This Iris Does Not Exist” sort of thing…?)
Other portents of the future…
Twitter and Square founder and Bitcoin prophet @Jack got vocal about looming hyperinflation this week. Ark Invest’s Cathie Wood had a more measured thread about how QE / inflationary pressures appear to be cancelled out by secular and cyclical factors driving declining money velocity:
jack⚡️ @jackHyperinflation is going to change everything. It’s happening.
🚫Computer says no
How will the world’s vaccine certificate systems work together? Not so well it seems… The Economist daily podcast looks at why Covid certificates are a global mess, with countries operating a patchwork of incompatible systems. Travelling overseas is going to be inconvenient for a few more years yet…
🛰️🛰️🛰️Office park with a view
Having spent over 10 years of my early career commuting to work in depressingly anonymous light-industrial / office parks positioned just off some motorway junction somewhere, Blue Origin’s announcement of the first “business park in space” sent a shiver down my spine… “Orbital Reef” … or more like Slough Trading Estate but in orbit?
(Meanwhile Bezos will be out cruising down on Earth on his US$500M private yacht).
Radiant is the latest company working on compact, portable nuclear micro-reactors:
Danish company Seaborg is another such company - planning to mass-produce molten-salt nuclear reactors which have a number of passive safety measures:
“Even in the worst-case scenario of a terrorist bombing, molten salt nuclear fuel simply hardens into rock, vastly reducing the consequences of an accident while making these next-gen reactors cheap, effective and small enough to put on floating barges”
Stimulating the neurons this week:
🦾✊New on my reading list: The Rise of Technosocialism by Australian authors Brett King and Richard Petty: a rare optimistic take on how humanity could counter most of today’s doom-laden narratives about the future:
“Within a decade or two, we will have retooled most of the world’s energy systems to be completely renewable, and we are starting a journey to reimagine education, healthcare, housing, consumption, food and agriculture with economies built for the 21st century. [This book describes] the likely outcomes: the rise of a technology-driven collective social consciousness and purpose.“
Italian-British economist Mariana Mazzucato (wishfully?) heralds A New Global Economic Consensus.
…And physicist Melvin Vopson from the University of Portsmouth in the UK has quantified the amount of information in the entire observable universe: based on an estimate that each particle in the observable Universe holds 1.509 bits of information, he reached an estimate of 6 followed by 80 zeroes bits of information - which is actually lower than previous approximations!
Kudos around the motu this week goes to…
Spark AI services subsidiary Qrious for launching the Qrious - State of AI in NZ 2021 report - good work Sam Daish, Christopher Laing and team.
Memia regular Matt Boyd shares his many-layered short story ‘The Sequence Matters’ - entered into this year’s Effective Altruism Forum creative writing contest. (EA addresses issues such as existential risks to humanity, how to do the most good possible, and what the most rational global priorities are).
My feed algos have been a bit serious and earnest over the last couple of weeks… however:
Check out this collection of weird EVs available for purchase on Alibaba!
That’s it for another week…as always thanks to everyone who reaches out and gets in touch with thoughts, feedback, links!