Memia 2021.48: Scanonymity?📲// "is not a troll" pass🆔// rugby in the metaverse would cost less🏉🥽// Novi-chuck💸// if human: kill()🤖// fly my batteries🔋
Welcome to the weekly Memia newsletter…scanning across emerging tech and the unfolding future from Aotearoa New Zealand.
Also in the last week…
Vaccine passes and readers went live across Aotearoa. They work! (But it’s a bit weird, eh…)
A few thoughts, trying to steer clear of the omnipresent online shouting match:
The public health logic behind some kind of vaccine pass system remains compelling, at least until an (inevitable?) vaccine-resistant Covid-19 mutation.
However, the system as implemented is *leaky*: without biometrics or accompanying ID, anybody can make a copy of a pass and give it to anybody else. And, more consequentially, forcing businesses to have staff members manually check every pass will become more challenging as society relaxes into it… the German “high trust” model mentioned a couple of weeks ago may be where this is headed…
While the whole government-mandated system is based on open technical standards, in practice it depends upon mobile operating systems and app stores governed by US technology companies (Apple and Google) to function. How appropriate is this long term? (…And what are the alternatives?)
More fundamentally, my personal reflection is that something changed subtly in Aotearoa society over the last few days that will now be difficult to roll back: in order to go about daily life, people now need to present what amounts to a government-issued ID (the scanned pass shows a full name, date of birth as well as vaccine status) to any premises they visit.
A previous convention of anonymity in daily life has been abruptly removed in favour of public health, throwing out the previous balance between individual privacy and collective control (and potentially increasing risks of identity theft too).
(As an aside, I doubt that this was deliberate, more likely the result of hasty compromises on privacy settings in rushed app design meetings…)
Fair to say the privacy settings could definitely be improved in subsequent releases!
Bigger question is this: are people expecting a return to anonymity in the “post-pandemic” future or not?
Thinking aloud, if these settings do remain in the long term, then one response may well be a retreat from from using one’s “state ID” (=legal name/DOB) in public at all, unless mandated by law.
Along the lines of Balaji Srivinasan’s Pseudonymous Economy, while governments would still manage birth and death certificates, driving licenses, passports and now public health passes… everything else in between (personal/professional identity, education, communications, social media, finances…) becomes pseudonymous outside one’s circles of trust. Will we just use burner1 identities with people we don’t know…?
🆔”Is not a troll” pass
Over the ditch they’re taking state identity to the next level again:
The Australian government is introducing “anti-trolling” legislation which would require social media platforms to provide information on anonymous users.
..while the NSW government is rolling out a full-featured digital identity wallet next year:
💬Omicron disinformation patterns
This Twitter thread analyses the spread of Omicron-related disinformation over the first week of its existence. Common patterns emerging with anti-vax disinformation in Aotearoa and worldwide, are they getting easier to spot?
🏉🥽Rugby in the metaverse would cost less
Christchurch City Council showed off the new 30-000 seater stadium that they have already built in the metaverse. It’s got a roof to keep out the virtual rain!
Apparently they now want to spend NZ$550M building it in real life…to sit empty for ~330 days per year. Tbh it would cost a lot less to buy 30,000 top of the range VR headsets and let people watch the rugby in the metaverse instead. (Also, did anyone hear the phrase “pre-pandemic investment case”??) 😮💨
David Marcus, head of Facebook Financial (F2) and the driver behind its Libra/Diem/Novi payments initiatives announced his intention to depart Meta. It’s unclear where this leaves Meta’s financial product strategy.
🤖if human: kill()
On the recent topic of lethal autonomous weapons, the latest “Slaughterbots” near-future video from Future of Life Institute is pretty terrifying:
🔋Fly my batteries
An electric plane from Rolls-Royce smashed the zero-emission speed record, hitting a top speed of 556 km/h
🔌Next level energy security
Engineers are exploring how to use Australian solar energy to power the city of Singapore:
In eye-catching materials science news, salmon sperm is being used to create an eco-friendly alternative to plastic.😶
Following @jack’s (in)voluntary departure last week, Ben Thompson in Stratechery analyses Twitter’s options of adopting a non-advertising-based business model. Lots of good stuff in here:
“…the absolute fastest way to get your users to explore alternatives is to ask them to pay for your service…certainly existing users would howl and insist they were leaving and never coming back. I think, though, that Twitter is so unique, and its userbase is so locked in, that it is the one social networking service that could potentially pull this off.”
Shout-outs around the motu:
☀️Awesomeness happening in my backyard, kudos to the team at Christchurch Airport, partnering with Australian fund Solar Bay to build a 400-hectare solar power plant, expecting to generate 150MW of electricity – enough to power 20 per cent of Christchurch homes – within 7 years.
⚙️Aotearoa-based metal casting start-up Foundry Lab has emerged from stealth mode, raising a US$8 million Series A funding round. The company has developed a novel digital microwave casting (DMC) technology that enables same-day turnaround of metal castings rather than 1-6 weeks for conventional casting processes.
🧭I’m looking forward to this NZUS Council online event on Friday this week, exploring implications for Aotearoa of increasing US-China technology decoupling. Register below:
Finally, keeping me entertained this week:
👍👍👍I finally watched Dune. Go see!
Speaking of *prescience*, Nikola Tesla…🤯
(fact checked on Snopes here).
🎶Like many others I’ve been over-sharing my personalised Annual Top Songs of 2021 Spotify roundup… a big thank you to Catarina Gutierrez for pointing me onwards to this hilarious AI gem: How Bad Is Your Streaming Music? (Our sophisticated A.I. judges your awful taste in music). Try it yourself. Fair to say, I got owned:🤣
For more contemporary music, Ōtautahi band Beacon Bloom Trio have released their latest video with some hidden links to a “musical metaverse” filled with NFTs. Filmed at the beautiful Ohinetahi gardens, keep your QR scanner handy when watching! (ht Henry Bersani for sharing).
And that’s a wrap for another week… thanks as always for letting me into your inbox every week and especially 🙏🙏🙏 to everyone who reaches out and gets in touch with thoughts, feedback, links! Keep them coming!
A big treat for me over the last few months has been re-watching all 5 series of HBO’s magnificent 2002-2008 drama series The Wire, set in Baltimore. (Where I first came across the concept of “Burner“ phones…) It’s a dramatic tour de force with fantastic acting from a largely unknown cast that hasn’t lost its quality after nearly 20 years. Highly recommended to (re)-watch!