Memia 2022.05: calm before the storm📈// the money tree💰🌳// Meta-physics🥽📉// reality neutrality// Bürokratt-ic government🤖// disinformation inoculation💉🧠// museum of the future🔮
So I was PMing at this bank…
Welcome to this week’s Memia newsletter… wide-angle thinking about emerging technology for a complex, changing world. Thanks for being here!
In Waitangi weekend’s paid-subscriber-only Memia on Sunday:
Housing market: what does radical policy look like?
Discussing entrepreneur and investor Josh Comrie’s thought-provoking article: The New Zealand Property Market disaster - and solution?
He starts from a point of principle (which may actually go to the heart of the matter):
“I believe residential property is NOT an investment class…” 💣
A run through the latest developments in state-sponsored digital currencies
And what comes after Diem’s demise?
…watch out for Lightning Chain and Block’s Cash App:
With the exception of China, most central banks and governments will just be too slow compared to leading open source crypto and DeFi projects. Progress on CBDC implementation…let alone adoption… will be slower than market demand for zero cost, frictionless payments. Into this gap, apps like Block’s Cash App will slip (just like WeChat Pay and AliPay did to replace cash in China almost overnight). But with more and more Cash App (etc…) payments being transacted over Lightning/Bitcoin, regulators will have a hard time stopping users from moving more and more of their payments to non-Fiat rails."
Weekend reading, listening and watching
Regular selection of recommended links Including:
Beautiful animated visualisations of DNA at work
Hello Cascadia - a West Coast counterweight to the California Republic in a not-entirely-unlikely US breakup scenario?
The Banality of Genius - wonderful essay from writer Ian Leslie reflecting on Peter Jackson’s marathon Beatles documentary Get Back.
Down the Rabbit Hole - The Coming Storm is a new BBC podcast series going deep into the origins and bizarre belief mechanics of the QAnon phenomenon (crazy…)
Tickled Puce - and other AI-generated paint colour names from Janelle Shane🤣
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Also in the last week…
📈Calm before the storm
The spread of the omicron variant has *so far* been slower to take off than expected. But yesterday’s paper released by the cross-disciplinary Covid-19 data modelling team from Te Pūnaha Matatini (carried out before the first cases were confirmed) shows a range of how quickly we can expect the spread to happen.
The best case “low transmission” scenario (analogous to South Australia’s experience) - would result in a peak of “only” ~6000 daily cases, ~80 days after the initial outbreak (around mid-April?).
(In comparison, the worst case scenario, analogous to New York’s experience, models ~30,000 daily cases after ~70 days - around late March?).
Hatches. Battening down. But cautiously optimistic Aotearoa can ride this out.
⛈️Storm after the storm?
Regardless of how fast omicron spreads in the next few months, a new study published in Nature Medicine identifies evidence of long term cardiovascular damage from Covid-19, even if initial symptoms are mild. Perth epidemiologist Zoë Hyde breaks the findings down in this thread, together with major cost implications for public health systems:
💰🌳The Money Tree
No sooner was I writing about CBDCs at the weekend…but Te Pūtea Matua/ RBNZ governor Adrian Orr gave a speech yesterday - The Future of Money demands innovation - announcing that proof-of-concept design work is commencing on an Aotearoa CBDC. In particular, Orr says that any design will need to take into account the public’s “resounding feedback on the importance of privacy in their money”.
This is a taxonomy accompanying the speech:
As noted above I believe this will be an innovation race against decentralised, borderless cryptocurrencies… so it’s positive to see some momentum. I’m looking forward to my first Aotearoa Tāra transaction!
Memia’s weekly curation of signals from near and far futures…
Meta had the week from hell with a (long-in-the-making?) market correction this week, its share price falling 26%, wiping US$232(!!!) billion off its market cap in one day after spectacularly missing earnings targets. The company blamed increased advertising competition but in particular Apple’s iOS privacy change last year. The price of not owning your own platform…
The company intends to continue its long, US$10Bn/year pivot towards the “Metaverse” - but Techcrunch asks: How long can Zuckerberg afford to bankroll the AR/VR market? Perhaps not so long…
(Told you so… from Memia 2021.33:)
“…If I was an investor in Facebook I’d be looking carefully at how much more the “metaverse” strategy is going to cost before generating any revenues…”
…however, the market shouldn’t write them off just yet… if one day Zuck decided to step back to focus on “special Metaverse projects”, a Microsoft-like transformation under a next-generation CEO could see Meta regain its powerful position in US tech.
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Magic Leap, Meta and a dozen other tech companies are all building their own AR glasses - and it’s easy to imagine how using these devices in the real world will rely on each company’s geospatial data overlays to decide what kind of information to show you when you look at a real-world object in AR.
This raises the question of “reality neutrality”: in a world of proprietary augmented reality systems and data, would there ever be any “consensus reality”?
“If net neutrality was fought in the browser, then the reality neutrality wars will be fought over the lens” - futurist Sanjiv Sirpal
Likely a few years yet until this becomes a serious “thing”… but one to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile…consulting firm Deloitte Digital held their first all-hands meeting in the Metaverse. Oh, the fees to be made…
🚮Rip and replace
The FCC, US telco regulator, has begun a subsidy programme to have US carriers “rip out” Chinese vendor networking equipment (Huawei, ZTE…) and replace it with American vendor (Cisco, Juniper, Arista…) kit. The programme is almost three times oversubscribed - resulting in the FCC expected to seek extra funding (to the total tune of US$5.6Bn) to complete the programme.
Effectively the US government is paying large corporates for massive hardware swap-outs… with no additional benefits, no financial risk to the vendors and no timeframes for completion… (Cisco’s CEO recently warned that the chip supply shortages would continue to affect production…)
That is one expensive national cyber-security policy the US has, right there.
Meanwhile almost all other countries around the world (including Aotearoa) continue to have rackloads of top-spec Chinese equipment running corporate and telco networks and with no intention to rip it out… maybe there may even be some 2nd hand bargains to be had…! How real is the risk?
As you’ll recall, Australia assessed it as *high* and passed a ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment (see SMH Huawei? No way! Why Australia banned the world’s biggest telecoms firm from last year), which has had similar expensive impacts on telcos:
In response, Vodafone Australia (now TPG) had to stop its plans to build its 5G network using Huawei, and instead completely redesigned it around Nokia and Ericsson equipment.
Back in 2018, Aotearoa’s GCSB also knocked back Huawei’s intention to underpin the Spark 5G network…but regained our country’s usual tightrope-walking posture in 2020 with GCSB minister Andrew Little remarking "New Zealand does not ban any telecommunications vendor". Well, indeed.🤹
The key sovereignty question going forward is whether *any* country outside the US or China is comfortable with cyber risks intrinsic in either country’s proprietary networking equipment? Once again, the rest of the world should just get on with building on top of an open source stack to dissolve the issue. There are a couple of initiatives to watch:
The OpenRAN Alliance - a worldwide Radio Access Network (RAN) membership organisation developing standards to “re-shape the RAN industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualised and fully interoperable mobile networks.”
Vodafone recently opened Europe’s first dedicated R&D centre for Open RAN networks microchip architecture in Málaga, Spain.
Open Air Interface is trying to “democratise 5G”.
…and not forgetting the crypto-project Helium which I’ve covered a few times, aiming to completely decentralise 5G wireless infrastructure.
The Estonian government is launching a voice-operated virtual assistant (we used to say “chatbot” back in 2018…) called Bürokratt to answer queries and handle transactions across a network of government AI applications.
🧑🤝🧑Diversity in remoteness
These are some amazing stats, When scientific conferences went online, diversity and inclusion soared:
“New data show that female attendance at virtual science and engineering meetings grew by as much as 253%, and gender queer scientist attendance jumped 700%”
Stimulating my neurons this week:
Another story from Estonia: The Country Inoculating Against Disinformation.
The Estonian government treats media literacy education as part of its digital-first culture and national security.
Since 2010 Estonian public schools – from kindergarten through to high school – teach media literacy, including a mandatory “media and influence” course to 10th-grade pupils. Media literacy education is now accepted "as important as maths or writing or reading":
Better media literacy skills "makes our people more resilient not only to hostile interference in the digital domain but to noise, rudeness, bad journalism and everything else"
- Siim Kumpas, former Estonia government strategic communication adviser
It works: last year Estonia ranked third in the 2021 European Media Literacy Index, behind only Finland and Denmark.
…given the deepening penetration of disinformation into Aotearoa society, emphasised by this week’s vacuous noisemaking #dumbkirk convoy… this would seem like a radically sensible investment in national education here. (And an accessible NZonAir-funded documentary would be helpful too, sooner rather than later...)
🌌Estate planning for humanity
I just re-read Numenta founder Jeff Hawkins’s extract from last year’s Thousand Brains Theory of Intelligence: Estate Planning for Humanity, in which he muses about leaving a galactic “message in a bottle” containing a record of human culture for extraterrestrial intelligence to discover after we’ve gone:
“In essence, we could create a time capsule designed to last for millions or hundreds of millions of years. In the distant future, intelligent beings — whether they evolve on Earth or travel from another star — could discover the time capsule and read its contents.”
Now that would be a life’s mission.
A couple of
agricultural Food and Fibre shout-outs around the motu this week:
Blenheim company Smart Machine which is developing an autonomous viticulture tractor has secured $600k from MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund. (…But $600K doesn’t go far…where are the private investors…?)
Tickets for this year’s E Tipu Boma Agri Summit are on sale now: the conference lineup looks even more amazing than 2021… h/t Kaila Colbin and the E Tipu team…🦠🤞
🔮Museum of the future
The remarkable new Museum of the Future is due to open in Dubai in 2 weeks’ time:
The exhibitions should be mindblowing, at least going by VR agency MetaVRse’s (unsuccessful) exhibition concept pitch deck from 2018.
🤣So I was PMing at this bank…
Finally, hat off to Sydney-based Tom Walker at Oracle Cloud… this subtitled clip of an “AWS Migration Experience” over the classic Spanish comedian Risitas meme is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long while…1 (You need to have been involved in a few cloud migration projects to truly appreciate…🤐)
As always thanks for letting me into your inbox every week.🙏🙏🙏.
Catch you again on Sunday (paid subscribers) or next week (everyone!).