Memia 2021.45: COP out🌍// kaleidoscope of national security risks💣// digital twins and the omniverse🥽// opera beyond🎭// silent drones🤫// spinlaunch (for the boys)💫//welcome to the Icelandverse🧊

Escape the entropy

Kia ora,

Welcome to this week’s Memia missive - your regular scan across emerging tech and the unfolding future, from Aotearoa New Zealand.

Engagement was up significantly last week so people clearly prefer the updated order of proceedings! (Feedback always welcome - you still have to scroll right to the end for the funnies, tho.😇)

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Weekly roundup

🦠The most clicked link in the last issue (14% of openers) was Rosie Carnahan-Darby’s timely bump back down to earth: ‘Back to normal’? Yeah, right: A Covid reality check from a New Zealander in LA.

↩️Escape the entropy

Regular correspondent Matt Boyd commented on my throwaway line on the subject of Meme wars last week ("time to unholster the GPT-3 and apply some DDOS to those Telegram channels"):

“This is the inevitable endgame to the internet... warring factions of AIs with unlimited productivity…. just as we cast aside a corrupted and fragmented old hard drive, and we cast aside a social media platform that has been spoiled by trolls and fake news, we will cast aside the internet. Suddenly 'proof of human' and a secure (quantum encrypted?) communication channel will be needed to escape the entropy”

…Profound.😶 (And dark - echoes of the chapter in Neal Stephenson’s 2019 novel Fall; or, Dodge in Hell where near-future Heartland “Ameristan” is full of rabid post-truth cults - while the well-off ‘coastal elite’ hire “editors” to sort facts from lies in their personalised information feeds.)

  • Timing: Stephenson (originator of the term “metaverse”) has just released his latest novel Termination Shock, all about climate change and adaptation. Here is a clip of him talking to Wired recently on Carbon Capture and Geoengineering. Compelling arguments.

💣Kaleidoscope of national security risks (and opportunities)

Fulfilling my civic duty again this week 😇, I put in a short submission to the DPMC Consultation on National Security Long-term Insights Briefing Topic: “Engaging an increasingly diverse Aotearoa New Zealand on national security risks, challenges and opportunities.”

A moment for me to gather together my recent thinking around scenarios where national security may be at risk from new and emerging tech - and also a set of suggested strategies to counter these risks.

“There is now a kaleidoscope of potential scenarios where emerging technologies could have fundamental impacts on people and society - and by implication national security.”

Some of the more extreme imagined scenarios include:

  • Nuclear winter

  • Physical internet disruption (someone cuts all of Aotearoa’s undersea fibres at once!)

  • “Blitzkrieg” cyberattack on national infrastructure, government and business

  • Memetic attacks: an avalanche of targeted mis- and dis-information

  • Targeted election interference

  • Autonomous weapons

  • Engineered bioweapons / nanotechnology

  • Autonomous airborne and submarine drones

  • Decentralised or foreign-corporate-controlled cryptocurrencies displacing the NZ Dollar

  • Network states (see more below)

  • Post-quantum cryptography

Please feel free to take a read here.

🌍COP out

So COP26, er, happened.

“Now it’s a straight fight for survival. The Glasgow Climate Pact, for all its restrained and diplomatic language, looks like a suicide pact. After so many squandered years of denial, distraction and delay, it’s too late for incremental change. A fair chance of preventing more than 1.5C of heating means cutting greenhouse gas emissions by about 7% every year: faster than they fell in 2020, at the height of the pandemic.”

Instead he calls for direct action, citing research that mobilising just 25% of people to the cause could flip social attitudes towards fixing the climate once and for all.

  • Or, as Chris Sacca phrases it:

“A couple of billion dollars, a 45sq km block of land, access to water and power and we could convert our global annual output of carbon to food, fuel etc! Seems very doable 🚀”

[Weak] signals

Elsewhere, as always, lots of happenings at the edges of tech…

🥽🧑‍🤝‍🧑Digital Twins and the Omniverse

Three major developments in Mixed / Augmented Reality (XR/AR) this week:

“We’re squarely in the camp of technology becoming more invisible and less prominent. It’s just there supporting us and serving us and helping us. But it’s not the thing that is taking over our interactions.

Ubiquitous computing, which is a Xerox PARC concept from the ’80s, has been around for a long time, but the trajectory that was painted was one where computing would just melt into the surfaces around us.”

🎭Opera beyond

Last week I covered Varjo’s incredible VR headsets… now you can go to the Opera with one:

🤫Silent drones

🚴Cyclists watch out

“…cyclists will be safe on the roads; what’s not to like? For tech companies and affluent cyclists, the future will be rosy—connected cars will know exactly where on the highway beacon-equipped bicyclists are located, and smashes will therefore be avoided. Vision Zero made a reality, not through behavior change or hard infrastructure, but technology.

The more likely version of the future is deeply dystopian…Only the beacon-equipped will be spotted…those choosing—say, for economic or privacy reasons—not to fit bicycle-to-vehicle beacons will be blamed for being hit by sensor-equipped cars”

That is some *dark shit*, right there.

💫SpinLaunch (for the boys)

SpinLaunch is a US space technology startup that has an alternative method for putting 200kg-class satellites into low earth orbit - a vacuum-encased centrifuge which slingshots the payload into the upper atmosphere and beyond. Last week they celebrated the first successful test launch using their Suborbital Accelerator - no rockets or carbon emissions involved.

(Incidentally I couldn’t spot a single woman in this whole video - in the final shot there must be nearly 100 people pictured…lots of man-hugs though…).

Blueprint for aging reversal

I first covered [multi-millionaire] Kernel founder Bryan Johnson’s Autonomous Self blog in Memia 2021.25. This has now been extended to Project Blueprint, in which Bryan aims to measure all 70+ organs of his body and then maximally reverse the quantified biological age of each:

“Many people believe that anti-aging, the fountain-of-youth radical type, is decades if not centuries away (if ever) and will arrive in the form of a magic pill. Blueprint is a stock ticker of sorts that will reveal, through the tracking of my biological versus chronological age, the status of today’s anti-aging science (even if an N=1 for now). With my world-class team of doctors, researchers and clinicians, if I am able to reverse my measured biological age by 1.01 years for every one year that passes, that is evidence that we have reached the first stage of aging escape velocity where life expectancy increases faster than passed time.

As for the magic pill, it appears that for the foreseeable future, achieving and maintaining peak wellness is just going to be a lot of really hard work.”

The man is looking *buff* (and enjoying life too, by all accounts if you follow his posts).

AWV trials

Honda are trialling a new autonomous work vehicle on a 1000-acre solar farm construction project in the US:

Moulded wood and 3D printed sand

A couple of recent advances in materials science:

Mind expanding

Rewiring my neurons this week:

The (definitive) Network State

  • I’ve previously covered the concept of Network States (“the sequel to the Nation State”) in Memia 2021.29 and Memia 2021.39. Balaji Srinivasan, the originator of the term brings together all his cumulative thinking on the topic so far in his 1729 blog: The Network State:

“A network state is thus an archipelago of digitally-linked enclaves.  It's also a country you can start from your computer, a territory one can acquire but not conquer, a community aligned around cryptographic consensus, a DAO that materializes in patches of earth, a city-state in the cloud, a body based on math rather than science, a group organized by geodesic over geographic distance, a polity that prizes exit above voice, a state that recruits like a startup, and a nation built from the internet rather than disrupted by it.”

Fascinating how the concept continues to gather momentum…

Stories from 2030

  • The collection Stories from 2030 was published to coincide with the COP26 conference in Glasgow. 82 authors worldwide, 83 visions of the future:

“‘Vision without action is merely a dream’

Stories of restlessness, disruption, conflagrations, faraday tents, mythmakers, bubble-worlds, local nomads, transformation, resilience and the power of the exponential.

​The 82 contributors to Stories from 2030 work on identifying risks, harnessing finance, developing or deploying solutions and driving government action. They are the people that are driving the critical actions of this decade.  In their stories, they address climate justice, collaboration across countries, companies and communities, adaptation of cities and economies, of ecosystems and biodiversity, of health and wellbeing. They tell what you can do to help.”

  • On my Xmas reading list…once it’s available to purchase(!).


Shout outs around the motu this week go to:

Hidden gems

Hurray for the internet!

Not a robot

🧊Welcome to the Icelandverse

ICYMI, top notch Meta trolling from Iceland tourism:

Cat duet

And finally, I’ve previously featured (Memia 2021.02) the modern artform that is TikTok Duet. Here’s another joyful example:

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

Ngā mihi