Memia 2021.49: Log4Shell🪲// the great disconnect💢// treaty of AI?📜// back in the real-world-verse😢// project tāwhaki🚀// flying jetson🚗🪁// heavier lifting🦿
eSports for Microsoft Excel
Welcome to the *penultimate* weekly Memia newsletter of 2021…your regular scan across emerging tech and the unfolding future from Aotearoa New Zealand.
Wow, where did the year go…? I’m enjoying pulling together Memia’s annual summary post which should be with you next week. Meanwhile re-sharing last year’s post: Memia 2020 wrapup: Top 10 themes from a year of tumultuous change🌊💥🤯 - from an age back…!
The most clicked link in last week’s issue (7% of openers ) was Future of Life Institute’s terrifying future vision of a world with unregulated killer robots. Yikes indeed.😱
Also in the last week…
New Memia logo for 2022!
Log4Shell (tracked as CVE-2021-44228), a zero-day exploit of the ubiquitous Log4j Java library was discovered by Minecraft last Friday. It is rated “severity 10/10” and exposes Java applications, including those at the world’s largest cloud companies including Apple, Amazon, Cloudflare, Steam, Tesla, Twitter and Baidu.
CERT New Zealand were among the first to warn that the vulnerability was already being exploited in the wild up to 9 days before it was announced…A fix is available, but keep watching this space, plenty of unpatched devices out there to be pwned over the next few months:
“…You don’t want to think about the worst-case scenario, other than to remember the 2017 breach of Equifax and the resulting compromise of 143 million US consumers’ data that followed when that company failed to patch against a similarly devastating vulnerability” - ArsTechnica Security Editor Dan Goodin
(I wouldn’t want to be the person who submitted *that* line of code…)
Omicron and on and on
Three weeks since being identified, the Covid-19 Omicron variant is now spreading globally:
Tāmaki Makaurau’s borders were flung open overnight…once again, well done and thank you Auckland folks for enduring 4+ months of lockdown/lock-in so we didn’t have to!
Looking forward to catching up with long-confined friends heading south for summer… feel free to fix up a 🍻 if you’re in Ōtautahi over Christmas!
She’ll be right…right?
🤬Never mind the bollocks1
Scientist and atheist provocateur Richard Dawkins (originator of the word “meme” from which this newsletter’s name is derived) launched boots first into the controversial debate on Mātauranga and Aotearoa’s science curriculum:
“Science classes are emphatically not the right place to teach scientific falsehoods alongside true science…Creationism is still bollocks even it is indigenous bollocks”
Oof. He has a certain style, eh? (And language such as “true science” and “scientific falsehoods” doesn’t exactly emit undogmatic beliefs…)
Science journalist Peter Griffin covered the story for Stuff: Richard Dawkins' foray into the NZ science curriculum isn't helpful.
Broader picture: interesting meme war to watch in 2022… internationally competitive education is likely to be an axis of political leverage for ACT and newly-minted National party leader Chris Luxon. (Already lining it up: “plummeting international rankings for educational achievement without doubt Luxon's 'most worrying' discovery as an MP”).
(Whatever one’s leanings, at least Aotearoa politics might get interesting again…)
💢The Great Disconnect: a new “virtual Berlin Wall”?
The NZUS Council held a webinar discussion last Friday on US-China technology decoupling. Very insightful viewpoints from the panellists, watch the recording here if you missed it:
One key point made by Endace CEO Stuart Wilson is that much of the current geopolitical tension around tech relates to a worldwide chip shortage and Taiwan’s (un)enviable position of manufacturing 92% of the world’s high-end silicon chips. More supply chain diversity is coming…but will still be years downstream as major factory investments by Samsung, Intel and others take time to spin up. Hopefully everyone can hold off going to war until then, eh…
The excellent accompanying issues paper by Te Whare Wananga o Waikato / University of Waikato’s Reuben Steff asks more fundamental questions of Aotearoa’s national strategic and economic policy:
“Ongoing, strategic competition between the US and China is driving global fragmentation as both are increasingly focused on reducing their interdependence through a managed decoupling of their technology sectors.
Far from being merely conceptual or an academic topic for discussion, these issues are playing out right now. And they have real-world consequences. New Zealand is a player, albeit a small one, in the global technology market. As geopolitical tensions alter technology supply chains it will impact New Zealand’s technology sector and the country more broadly.
…A nascent ‘virtual Berlin Wall’ is emerging between what US President Joe Biden has termed the “technodemocracies” (comprised of the US, its allies and close partners), and the “techno-autocracies” (including China and Russia)”
(The paper outlines three scenarios to stimulate debate - and also has lots of really useful reference links to other international writing on these topics).
I covered some similar themes in my recent submission on Aotearoa government national security long-term insights briefing but with slightly different framing. Fundamentally, in a 21st century, multi-polar geopolitical reality, do smaller states like Aotearoa (let alone India, Brazil, EU and UK) really need to “choose a side”? Or should we all be thinking more deeply about our own technological sovereignty as well?
In my mind, this is as much a technology architecture question as a geopolitical one: unbundling existing stacks and co-investing with entities from likeminded countries (including US and China if they want) towards a globally decentralised governance, open-source, open-supply-chain tech stack - to provide a realistic alternative choice to “with us or against us” rhetoric?
(See also: Balaji Srinivasan on the nascent India Stack.)
The future is already here, unevenly distributed, etc…
🗓️Annual predictions season
Two excellent contributions so far to the annual end-of-year predictions season:
Independent tech sector analyst Benedict Evans provides his annual presentation exploring macro and strategic trends in the tech industry: Three Steps to the future, 70+ slides full of data and pithy insights into what’s going on and what’s next.
Amy Webb writes the Future Now Institute’s annual letter: 2021 Signals Inventory + 2022 Look Ahead. The FNI’s signals inventory is the most comprehensive resource of its kind on the internet - and the predictions are mostly familiar themes to Memia readers over the last year, but I was intrigued by this 2022 projection:
“Biological Chipsets. Engineers are designing new computer systems for biology, and startups are selling printers capable of turning computer code into living organisms. Network architects are using DNA as hard drives. Researchers are growing body-on-a-chip systems: picture a translucent domino embedded with nanoscale human organs that live and grow outside a human body. New brain-machine interface technology, which will be introduced next year, isn't something out of The Matrix––you won't wire in and know Kung Fu. Instead, it will help people recover from spinal cord injuries and paralysis.”
📜Treaty of AI?
The Council of Europe’s Ad hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence recommended a legally-binding international treaty on AI, regulating:
“potential risks emanating from the development, design and application of AI systems for the purposes of law enforcement, the administration of justice, and public administration.”
😢Back in the real-world-verse
(Pretty certain when Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in a Harvard dorm in 2003 he could never have imagined this turn of events nearly 18 years later…)
A class action against Facebook/Meta has been launched in the US and UK seeking compensation of up to US$150bn on behalf of an estimated 10,000 Rohingya refugees relating to the 2017 ethnic cleansing events in Myanmar. The complaint states that Facebook allowed the dissemination of hateful and dangerous misinformation to continue for years and was:
“willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in south-east Asia.”
It’s harrowing evidence. The class action lawyers are arguing that Myanmar law, not US law, should apply - in which case Facebook could be liable for content disseminated on its own platform. Watch this one develop…
Swedish company Jetson Aero has launched its 102km/h flying car for US$92,000. (Imagine a future with hoons riding peace-destroying airborne jetskis -at least it can only fly for 18 minutes at a time…)
The latest exoskeleton from German Bionic supports up to 30Kg extra per lift - available as “hardware as a service” next year:
(Also the Esper Hand is the latest in bionic prosthetics).
Two links to tickle the neurons this week:
The most comprehensive essay on network states yet from The Generalist: The Decentralized Country - Beyond DAOs and toward "promiscuous nationalism".
Some of the most insightful strategy workshops I’ve run this year have used Wardley Mapping to make sense of dynamic strategic playing fields. Here’s the man himself giving a masterclass on what comes after cloud computing (click for thread).
(And tap me up if you’re interested in booking a strategic planning session in 2022 for your organisation - Q1 calendar filling up fast…)
More NZ tech sector M&A: congratulations to Charlie Tomlinson and the team at Ōtautahi-based school data analytics firm EdPotential, recently acquired by Ōtepoti-HQ’ed Education Perfect.
🚀Project Tāwhaki is a government-brokered joint venture partnership at Kaitōrete Spit in Canterbury - combining environmental protection with a dedicated aerospace R&D facility. Solar-powered high-altitude plane startup Kea Aerospace is an early user, last week completing a 3-hour test flight taking off with 70% battery, landing with 100% battery charged!
Check out the Financial Modeling World Cup - eSports for Microsoft Excel.
Normally these hidden gem links are pretty lighthearted and uplifting, but this one… WTF America?!?
Creepy, just a bit: Android users can activate Google assistant and then say "sing me a song".
After all that I need a timeline cleanse with a data science in-joke:
And that’s a wrap, one more week to go…
Thanks as always for letting me into your inbox and especially 🙏🙏🙏 to everyone who reaches out and gets in touch each week.