Memia 2021.42: The MADness of nuclear deterrence☢️// we built this city on NFTs🗽// proof-of-human (again)👁️// not hyperinflation?📈// technosocialism🦾✊// computer says no🚫

*DON’T* book-a-bach

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…)

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Weekly roundup

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:


☢️The MADness of nuclear deterrence


🗽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…)


👁️Proof-of-human (again)

(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.)

Problem statement:

“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.

*Or*:

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…?)


[Weak] signals

Other portents of the future…

📈Not hyperinflation?

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:

🚫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 1MW

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”


Mind expanding

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.“


Rollcall

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).


Hidden gems

My feed algos have been a bit serious and earnest over the last couple of weeks… however:

That’s it for another week…as always thanks to everyone who reaches out and gets in touch with thoughts, feedback, links!

Ngā mihi

Ben