Memia 2022.02: Eruption disruption🌋// Wordle’s special K🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩// supply chains meet inequality📦// clever wood🪵// going underground☢️// from Southland to the world🌏🌐🌎
Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter…your regular scan across emerging tech and the unfolding future from Aotearoa New Zealand.
“Below the paywall fold” in this week’s issue:
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 Wordle’s Special K
An exquisite example of “K Factor”, also known as the viral coefficient
🐼China the Rule-Maker
Three thought-provoking recent pieces on a new world order increasingly operating on a Chinese technology and conceptual stack
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There’s so much to write about each week!! If you are a Gmail user you may notice that these days weekly Memia emails are starting to exceed Gmail’s (arbitrary) 102Kb limit and display “[Message clipped]”… and you have to click “View entire message” to read the rest. How annoying is this? Please can you let me know your thoughts by answering this quick poll on Twitter in the next few days (click to vote):
(And yes, I’ve gone WAAAAYYY overboard this week, sorry!)
The staggering force of the planet’s geothermal energy was on full show when the uninhabited Tongan volcanic island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupted ferociously on Saturday, unleashing tsunamis, ash clouds and a massive shockwave experienced as far as Aotearoa and beyond:
This is thought to be the largest volcanic eruption since Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.
The Pinatubo eruption injected about 15 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, resulting in a measurable average 0.6DegC cooling of the Earth’s surface for a period of almost two years afterwards. It may just be that the planet gets a few years’ reprieve from otherwise relentless anthropogenic global warming (see last week and below).
Also, Tonga’s fragile internet connectivity was laid bare after the eruption: the only undersea fibre cable has been broken 37km offshore….but the ship needed to repair it is 2500 km away in Papua New Guinea so it may take weeks to come back online.
Recently returned (eg. finally-got-a-spot-in-MIQ) telco guru Jonathan Brewer posted a really informative thread on Tonga’s connectivity infrastructure: apparently the cable landing station is only 2 storeys high and only 1m above sea level. And this is what internet connectivity for a small island nation of 105,000 people looks like:
Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)’s Anthony Bergin and Samuel Bashfield extrapolate Tonga’s cable-cut-off experience to emphasise the increasing strategic importance of submarine cables in the Indo-Pacific region and the growing risk of sabotage & espionage: Digital age lies vulnerable to undersea threats (🔐)
More immediately than any of this, disaster relief efforts will be challenged by transport and communications disruption due to the ongoing eruption and ash cloud.
As a resident of Ōtautahi, I recall the paralysing uncertainty in the weeks following the 2010/2011 earthquakes. (At the time, Tonga — one of the Pacific's poorest nations — raised a huge T$833,867 (NZ$705,000) for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund). I also remember applying to the New Zealand Red Cross for a widely-available emergency grant application which was administered quickly and efficiently and helped to cover some cashflow gaps for our family from dealing with the aftereffects of the big Feb 2011 quake.
The NZ Red Cross recommends cash donations over “stuff”, mainly to help ensure local economies are helped to continue functioning after a disaster. So for me it’s a donation via the Red Cross' Pacific Tsunami appeal. Kia kaha to everyone in Tonga. 🇹🇴
More heat records
As if we needed it, more record breaking temperatures reported for 2021:
On land: NIWA reported that 2021 was officially Aotearoa’s warmest year ever:
“In 2021 we finished with an average temperature of 13.56 degrees which was 0.95 degrees above [the 1981-2010] average and became New Zealand's new warmest year on record."
At sea: New research from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and others confirms that 2021 was the sixth consecutive hottest year on record for world ocean temperatures, despite La Niña Conditions.
Signals from the future(s).
📦Supply chains meet inequality
This stunningly apocalyptic photo below by Oscar Rodriguez Zapata (click to view full height) starkly illustrates the chaotic dynamics of increased inequality in the modern capitalist economy: prosperous downtown Los Angeles in the background contrasted with the aftermath of mass-looting of UPS, Fedex and Amazon packages out of moving freight trains in the foreground. Where does this lead to next…?
🔌Charging it up
Aotearoa is now importing Teslas by the boatload:
Are Aotearoa’s HV / LV electricity networks ready for this massive ramp up in EV consumption?
EECA states that: “If all light vehicles in New Zealand were electric, our current total electricity demand would increase by around 20%, EECA estimates. This could be accommodated within New Zealand's current electricity grid, even allowing for the uncertainties of renewable generation, provided the majority of EVs are charged during off-peak periods.”
What happens to all those batteries after they reach end of life? (h/t @InaBeek for asking)
Tesla state that “None of our scrapped lithium-ion batteries go to landfilling, and 100% are recycled.”
California is planning to use forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk - new research looks at more clever wood use, achieving a climate benefit by repurposing waste wood produced by thinning.
Finland’s long-delayed Olkiluoto Nuclear Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) reached criticality just before Xmas and is about to be connected to the national grid. Eventually it should produce up to 14% of the country’s electricity.
But what to do with all that nuclear waste? Also due to be completed nearby in 2023 is the Onkalo permanent storage facility: a massive underground tunnel complex which will store spent nuclear waste in corrosion-resistant boron and copper cannisters, encased in concrete and bedrock.
“Ramjet propulsion” is a hypothetical concept used as a literary device in sci-fi to enable interstellar travel. Theoretically, a ramjet would involve capturing protons in space and then using them for a nuclear fusion reactor. Unfortunately… new research has shown that the magnetic funnel to collect hydrogen atoms in a vacuum would have to be about 150 million kilometers long — that’s the distance between the sun and the earth. Back to the drawing board.
More Web3 plumbing
Pocket Network is either “AWS for Web3” OR (deep breath):
“an infrastructure middleware protocol which facilitates decentralized cloud computing and abundant bandwidth on full nodes interoperable with DApps across all 21+ blockchains … Pocket Network incentivizes a global community of independent node operators and service providers running 21,000+ full nodes adding to the network’s resilience. Pocket Network is secured by over US$320M worth of network infrastructure distributed globally across 23 countries and reduces the risk of service downtime to near zero for any layer 1 or industry DApps as work is distributed evenly across thousands of full nodes, which also protects end users’ privacy.”
Solar panel planet
Scientists are mapping every solar panel in the world with machine learning:
💪A typical Blueprint morning
As previously covered in Memia 2021.45, Bryan Johnson is a multimillionaire working on a brain-computer helmet and also extending his biological life through an extreme dietary, sleep and fitness regime. Completely normal guy.
At the very end of last year, he released this 37-minute video below, detailing his morning routine, I would wager unlike any other human on the planet:
Starting at 5:30am every day he ritually works through 4 hours of meditation, eating several handfuls of supplements, high intensity workouts, lying under a light therapy helmet, an extended skincare regime, and eating a huge plate of “super veggie“ sludge for breakfast…
“my conscious mind is never consulted about what it wants to eat”
…All in the name of science - Johnson has a team of scientists monitoring streams of data feeds from 78 of his organs, aiming to rejuvenate and increase longevity in all of them. His combined “biological” age (measured by 6 “epigenetic clocks”) is now 1.9 years below his chronological age…an improvement of 5.2 “biological” years since he started in early 2021. From the videos he is clearly in peak physical (and mental) condition for his age.
This is a captivating video for me… (yeah, middle aged guy seeking youth and immortality, I know…) - but there’s a “modern asceticism” about the routine which is just tantalisingly profound: what if you *could* achieve an indefinitely long lifespan just by putting in the hours of sleep, exercise, eating perfectly and keeping off the excess calories? Could this turn into a global movement? Would there be monasteries in the mountains? So far Johnson is open-sourcing all of his findings, recipes and metrics. Fascinated to see how far he can go. Could he be the first person to live to 150? (Or will he fall off the wagon next month and go out on an all-night drinking bender…!?)😅
As one commenter on the video put it:
“That sequence … made me feel like I was watching the remnants of a civilization as they were starting to grow up.”
This being the start of the year with day-job work yet to ramp up, I’ve had time to read more longer-form pieces this week than usual… so much quality writing out there!
600M users and counting
The best article I read this week is this deep-dive profile in The Generalist of rapidly-scaling social network Telegram and its charismatic Russian founder Pavel Durov:
“[Telegram] still hasn't found a business model. Telegram has supported payments since 2017 and has recently experimented with advertisements. Neither has caught fire so far. To reach "default alive" status, Durov's team may look for inspiration from WeChat and others”
Upon regular Memia reader Matt Boyd’s recommendation I’m currently most of the way through devouring the speculative fiction novel 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by US authors Elliot Ackerman and James G. Stavridis.
“Speaking of Russian troops and Taiwan, I've just read the novel "2034" by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral Stavridis. It's not the most literary work of fiction, but the ideas are interesting. A military warning novel, involving an unspecified cyber weapon that renders the highly technological US fleets impotent, an invasion of Taiwan, the nuclear annihilation of several cities, heroic 3rd party interference with the aim of peace, some Chinese CCP 'vanishings', the rising geopolitical and technological clout of India, conniving opportunistic Russian land grabs, and the rising brokerage role played by Iran. Worth thinking about.”
Definitely a thought provoking read - however the “big nation state military” future it portrays is missing a few major dimensions from my evolving model for 2034 scenarios, including the effects of radically accelerated climate change, the emergence of influential, geographically distributed non-state actors enabled by decentralised tech/money and non-state space dominance. Should go write a novel, huh…?
On the wires around the motu this week…
🌏🌐🌎From Southland to the world
Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Streckar reports that Singaporean shipping giant BW Group has invested significantly into Datagrid, the company just about to start building a massive 65,000 sqm green data centre in North Makarewa, Southland (last covered in Memia 2020.45):
“The resource consent application would allow the data centre to consume up to 150 megawatts of power, which is more than a quarter of the power currently used by Southland’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.”
BW also recently agreed to purchase the undersea cable company Hawaiki:
“Hawaiki already owns a $445m fibre-optic cable connecting the North Island to the US, and announced in November that it would build another 22,000-kilometre subsea internet cable network – Hawaiki Nui – connecting New Zealand’s South Island, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and the US.
In December, Hawaiki was selected by the Chilean government to advance its proposed Humboldt cable between Chile and Australia, that could run via Invercargill and potentially also connect Antarctica.”
Given the strategic concerns relating to Aotearoa’s still-fragile undersea connectivity (particularly Te Waipounamu), brought into even sharper focus by Tonga’s current plight, this regional consortium investment is extremely positive news on the face of it.
Serge Van Dam, one of Aotearoa’s most experienced software entrepreneurs and investors (and fellow NZTE Beachheads Advisor) interviewed about his career so far by Chad Karannagoda:
Making me chuckle this week…
The 1-year NFT bubble is just about on the verge of going “pop”, methinks.
The definitive NFT art:
A group of Crypto Bros raised US$3M to buy the original unpublished manuscipt of Jodorowsky’s unmade version of Dune…
(BUT: Raises the question: can [US] Copyright Law apply to truly decentralised Web3 - which legal system would enforce it? How? Against who?)
Anyway, researching further into the story I came across a few other gem links to share:
A personally curated shared Google Drive with many of the images from Jodorowsky’s original manuscript and artist Moebius:
And of course, if you haven’t watched this “not making of” documentary yet you must: Jodorowsky’s Dune (only version I could find on YouTube with Spanish subtitles over the English ones but still essential 90 minute viewing.)
Also delightful, this Twitter thread on rare Japanese Dune mags:
As always thanks for reading!
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