Memia 2022.28: Vibe: DOOM😱// burning planet🧯// inflated expectations📈// CRISPR me🧬// the Merge is nigh⛙// mammoth DACCS🦣// hologlasses🕶️// warmth-as-a-service🌡️// BAD bank🙅
Emmanuel, don’t do it!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter, scanning across emerging tech and the future as it unfolds…as viewed from my corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand.
*So much* global flexing going on — hard to sense-make anything right now so this week’s missive is mostly just a curation of the *heightened stress levels* zeitgeist this week. (Not everything is so grim, though… I went walking up through regenerating bush above Akaroa at the weekend with Kererū everywhere, good for the heart and the soul!)
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ICYMI: ⏩Fast Forward Aotearoa #7
Another 2500 words on the book at the weekend…this instalment framing more geopolitical scenarios, in particular what comes after "hide your strength, bide your time"?
“Scenario 4: Expansionist China
(…Post 2025 Taiwan invasion…)
Chinese trawlers, with ever-more assertive protection from Chinese Navy frigates and autonomous drone motherships now have a free run of Pacific Ocean waters and increasingly Maritime New Zealand reports incursions into Aotearoa’s maritime territorial zones. Repeated requests for neighbour Australia to provide naval military support fall on deaf ears as that country focuses on its own trade relationship with China, a heightening climate crisis and defending its own maritime area.
…In 2030, after a relentless buildup of domestic political tensions and two consecutive governments falling in close succession, Aotearoa wakes up one morning to find Chinese aircraft carriers and naval fleet positioned outside Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton and Otago harbours… and news of a new “government of national unity” to be installed in The Beehive and “peacekeeping” forces being deployed around the country…”
Letting the imagination run… but perhaps verbalising what many are thinking at the back of our minds?
Since then NASA have released a full set of the first images from the JWST, check them out here if you haven’t seen them, mindblowingly beautiful:
Hubble is yesterday’s telescope…
😱Also in the last week (vibe: DOOM)…
✊🇺🇦Ukraine: still happening
Kia kaha to everyone in Ukraine still suffering under Russia’s brutal invasion (and refugees from the war spread across the world). News of the conflict continues to drift further down the news order… meanwhile on Twitter #Ukraine is mostly stochastic noise to me….hard to tell what’s going on right now. (Although it seems that the newly deployed HIMARS missiles are quite effective…)
The northern hemisphere has been experiencing an unprecedented heatwave… scary enough but likely just a mild portent of what is to come in the next decades. Medium-term climate adaptation strategies needed soon which don’t involve mass refugee crises or burning even more fossil fuels to power air conditioning units.
Umair Haque is as direct as he can be: This Isn’t Climate Change Anymore — It’s Climate Suicide.
Or, spend 10 minutes with Yuval Harari to find out how the world economy could still just prevent it (yeah, right?):
With daily case numbers in Aotearoa topping 10,000, schools go back next week, many without mandatory masking policies. Listening to the mainstream media, the health system appears to be on the perpetual edge of collapse.
The Atlantic describes a new “COVID Normal” in the US:
“After two-plus years of erupting into distinguishable peaks, the American coronavirus-case curve has a new topography: a long, never-ending plateau. Waves are now so frequent that they’re colliding and uplifting like tectonic plates, the valleys between them filling with virological rubble.“
On the bright side, if it turns out that capitalism and the planet’s ecology are fundamentally mutually exclusive, inflation will be the least of everyone’s worries…
(One hopeful counterpoint to the prevailing narratives: Here are all the positive environmental stories from 2022 so far.)
(I told you the vibe was DOOM!)
Matt Boyd reviews geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan’s new book (featured in last week’s newsletter) with a local angle: ‘The End of the World is Just the Beginning’ and the value of a NZ National Catastrophe Resilience Strategy.
University of Utah professor Joe Tainter is the author of the definitive 1988 book Collapse of Complex Societies - here he is interviewed in a recent podcast: “Surplus, Complexity, and Simplification”.
Aris Roussinos writing in Unherd surveys similar themes:
And finally, written in 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, David Bray for the Atlantic Council: Pandemic may replace the nation-state: But with what?
🕊️Regional security roundup
Small relief, regional security tensions between Solomon Islands and Australia (with the newly engaged Albanese government) seem to have reduced this week:
However, Kiribas was missed at last week’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting…
…while South China Sea islands continue to become more militarised, er, everywhere:
Moving on from doom to techno-optimism…
⛙The Merge is nigh
The long-anticipated Ethereum Mainnet merge to Proof of Stake (PoS) is looking like happening on September 19th:
“Ethereum’s transition to PoS based network is expected to reduce its energy consumption by 99% and the introduction of sharding (expected by the first quarter of 2023) would make the network highly scalable and on par with centralized payment processors.“
In a world first right here in Aotearoa, a patient has undergone a gene-editing treatment to lower their LDL blood cholesterol, promising a new era in disease prevention:
“gene editing is the big stick, because it’s one and done. You don't ever have to come back…It’s a very big deal, because atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in the industrialized world, and LDL is the primary reason.”
— Eugene Braunwald, Advisor to Verve Therapeutics
Related ICYMI: At the end of last year Amazon founder Jeff Bezos invested in Altos Labs who are developing cellular reprogramming technology aimed at reversing aging.
Geekwire visited the largest carbon capture plant in the world: Climeworks’ site in Iceland, just as Climeworks announced a 10-year deal with Microsoft to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and offset 10,000 tons of the company’s CO2 emissions.
(Climeworks’ new “Mammoth” plant they are building nearby will have the capacity to remove 36,000 tonnes of CO2 per year).
(Yes, I may be totally taken in by greenwashing spin here but right now it’s my judgement DACCS (combined with reforestation / wetland restoration) is the only way CO2 levels could now be brought down in our lifetimes…)
🔃AI designing AI chips
NVIDIA showcased how it is using designing arithmetic circuits with deep reinforcement learning:
“we demonstrate that not only can AI learn to design these circuits from scratch, but AI-designed circuits are also smaller and faster than those designed by state-of-the-art electronic design automation (EDA) tools. The latest NVIDIA Hopper GPU architecture has nearly 13,000 instances of AI-designed circuits.“
Microsoft revealed a new "fashion-friendly “Holo Glasses” concept:
(Also, Magic Leap announced a September launch date for its new augmented reality headset)
US researchers have created perovskite solar cells with a conversion efficiency of 15.5% - which allow more than 20 percent of visible light through, promising a new generation of energy-generating windows.
🛰️“AI orbital carrier”
Another headline to grab the attention of all the Chinese-military-space worriers out there:
BMW started selling heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month.
(WTF is going on here!?)
Bank of Queensland is the first bank to be fined for missing Australia’s open banking Consumer Data Right (CDR) data availability implementation deadlines.
(Oh to have open banking legislation, even…)
Two articles to share this week:
Meta’s Head of AI Yann Lecun writes with Jacob Browning in NOEMA: What AI Can Tell Us About Intelligence, exploring the perennial competition between deep learning (DL) and symbolic learning approaches to AI:
“More broadly, people should be skeptical that DL is at the limit; given the constant, incremental improvement on tasks seen just recently in DALL-E 2, Gato, and PaLM. it seems wise not to mistake hurdles for walls. The inevitable failure of DL has been predicted before, but it didn’t pay to bet against it.”
Now that Elon Musk has pulled out of the Twitter deal, what’s next? AVC’s Fred Wilson is right onto it in Some Thoughts On Twitter (continued):
“I would like to see the Twitter Board and management team continue to press Musk to perform on the deal, and at the same time start working on a plan to decentralize Twitter and move it to the thing it has always wanted to be which is a core communications protocol for the Internet. A first step in that direction would to broadly re-open the API and allow third-party clients to be built on Twitter with a business model that covers the costs of operating the Twitter network. Longer-term, Twitter should move to a fully decentralized protocol, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, but that will take some time to do.“
Catching my eye around the motu this week:
Aotearoa: Can we fix it?
The Future is Open
(UK academia are considering similar proposals right now… it just seems insane to me that legacy publishers continue to exert copyright and restrict access to publicly funded scientific research in the 21st century…)
Minimum viable light rail
Simon Lyall has some considered ideas here: A minimal viable Light Rail for Auckland
In amidst the current construction industry clusterf**k, I’m impressed by the vision of *how it should be done* shown on Flexihouse's website - personalised, modular, low carbon, passive heating, extensible home designs which take 13 hours to assemble onsite:
Thanks @InaBeeK for adding this suggestion to my reading list, out in October:
Nuggets and gems
The usual collection of the most shareable memes around the internet this week to end with:
Resident Evil above a street near you
The stuff of nightmares.
Where do you think we’re headed?
Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling
What am I holding in my hand?
Emmanuel, don’t do it!
Emmanuel the ostrich is this week’s viral internet star. (More at @hiitaylorblake). Wholesome.
Thanks as always to everyone who gets in touch each week with ideas, thoughts, feedback, links - always appreciated!
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