Memia 2022.32: Bivalent vaccine💉💉// eye of the Tornado🌪️// fire🔥and fury💢// charter cities or conspiracies?💰// EuroFusion DEMO⚛️// a tennis🎾court on the moon🌕// what we owe the future⌛
Millions, billions, or even trillions of people to come for every person alive today
Welcome to another weekly Memia newsletter, scanning across emerging tech and the unfolding future from Aotearoa New Zealand. Thanks for being here!
(Regular readers know the drill by now: these weekly emails are *way* too long for most email clients…click on the link above to read online or view in the Substack app on iOS.)
The most clicked link in last week’s newsletter was the video of my *bouncy* ride on the InterIslander across Te Moana-o-Raukawa. (Believe it or not I still haven’t completely found my land legs over 1 week later!)
The latest ⏩Fast Forward Aotearoa instalment from Sunday (paid subscribers) looked at looming intergenerational challenges for future pension provision…and what’s NOT being done about it!
A couple of “tech for the environment” dates for your diary next month:
Following their recent report AI for the Environment in Aotearoa New Zealand, the AI Forum NZ is holding an AI Envirohack hackathon event on 8-9 September at 5 locations around the country. Free to register and take part.
Terra Nova is a new charitable organisation set up to drive environmental change in Aotearoa and beyond.
Terra Nova are organising Te Ao Earth Week, an exhibition and 5-part speaker series 19th-23rd September in Ōtautahi and online, to coincide with the southern hemisphere spring equinox. I will be among the speakers at the event on Wednesday 21st September on the subject of Digital Earth… maybe see you there!
Also in the last week…
After the incredibly rapid innovation of MRNA technology to develop the initial Covid-19 vaccines, biotech giants have seemed relatively slow to respond to rapidly mutating virus strains. This may be changing - Moderna’s new bivalent booster candidate vaccine was this week approved for use in the UK - the vaccine not only targets the original coronavirus but is also designed specifically to target the Omicron variant BA.1. Also, in trials it demonstrated significantly higher antibody levels against the BA4./5 subvariants than the original booster. (But clear policy decisions on vaccination strategy for BA.5 are still highly uncertain according to that article).
⚖️New human right
The UN declared a new Human Right: the ability to live in "a clean, healthy and sustainable environment".
(But not legally binding yet…)
🌪️Eye of the Tornado
…Speaking of human rights…
The 1948 UN declaration of Human Rights Article 12 states:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.“
(Lolz the gendered language…)
This week something potentially groundshaking happened in the world of crypto: on August 8th the US Treasury Department levied sanctions against Tornado Cash, an Ethereum blockchain-based cryptocurrency “mixing service” which enables private, obfuscated crypto transactions - accusing it of being used to launder stolen digital assets by sanctioned groups including North Korean ransomware group Lazarus.
(Crypto mixers take digital assets from multiple transactions, mix them together and then send them to receivers, essentially obfuscating the origin and destination of each individual transaction.)
“Due to the sanctions, it’s now illegal for any U.S. person or entity to interact with Tornado Cash’s smart contract addresses. Penalties for willful noncompliance can range from fines of $50,000 to $10,000,000 and 10 to 30 years imprisonment.”
Circle, a major cryptocurrency firm and the issuer of USD Coin (USDC), subsequently froze 75,000 USDC linked to OFAC-sanctioned addresses.
2 days later, Dutch authorities arrested a 29-year-old software developer accused of being part of Tornado Cash’s operations. There are rumours of other arrests in the US and Estonia.
What is not clear is on what grounds the Tornado Cash developers have been arrested: in particular, was it just for writing the open source code on which Tornado Cash operates?!?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has something to say about that:
One of the founders of Tornado Cash even had his (Microsoft-owned) GitHub account suspended!
Various blockchain and crypto associations are assessing options for legal action to counter the sanctions… there are lots of arguments against this kind of action, but mainly it runs along the lines of:
like any technology, a crypto mixer itself is a neutral tool which can be used for benign as well as malicious uses.
(Do the directors of every gun manufacturer get arrested every time someone uses one of their weapons for a mass shooting?
(Perhaps they should…)
Long term, my take is that over-reaching moves like this from US regulators will just speed the move worldwide towards a fully decentralised technology stack including exchanges, mixers, peer to peer transactions which don’t need to touch fiat currency or regulatory systems at all. (See also the current enforced economic isolation of Russia is accelerating the building of new payment rails outside USD and EUR jurisdictions).
The fundamental tension between “Anti Money Laundering” (=USD surveillance hegemony) and “Individual Privacy” will see plenty more of these battles I expect… which may even extend to (intimidating those who are) writing the software code.
(See Point Network below).
🔥Fire and fury💢
Stuff Circuit released their high-profile new 1-hour documentary Fire and Fury which investigates the events and key individuals behind this year’s extended Parliament protests — and the associated disinformation and misinformation flows which surrounded events. Worth a watch to get to understand how the “movement” seemingly came out of nowhere, coordinated and then seemingly dissipated, and is now still bubbling away in the background.
(Tbh there wasn’t much in the documentary that wasn't all over Twitter while I was doomscrolling non-stop back in February…but good to get it into a condensed, edited format. Hopefully it gets aired on mainstream TV schedule to reach a wider audience.)
It is also somewhat ironic that the only way to present the misinformation rebuttal arguments is to have a few talking heads speaking in a trusting, confident voice from a supposed position of authority (eg academia or journalist...) - in some ways no different to the conspiracy livestreamers themselves… but that is the underlying point, I suppose.
(I’ve written before on the challenges of living in the post-truth society we have now entered, see Memia 2020.17 Truth and the Underlay and Memia on Sunday 13.02.2022 Splintered realities and epistemic security).
☣️Don’t drink the rain…
More apocalyptic times. Here’s a headline I never, ever imagined I’d see:
😓…But *any* rain would be good
Europe’s unprecedented drought continues. Check out this alarming thread (Norway has an energy crisis, major rivers are running dry everywhere, France’s nuclear power stations are nearly all out of action and water shortages in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands are having severe impacts on energy production, agriculture, river transport):
It’s not just the Rhine that is drying up, pretty much all rivers in Western and Central Europe are:
Bloomberg reports on What Europe’s Drought Means for the Price of Meat, Milk and Cheese (guess?📈)
UK-based master strategist Simon Wardley thinks this is heading in only one direction:
Across the Atlantic, First Street Foundation, a US climate risk NGO released their peer-reviewed extreme heat model along with implications, finding that over 30.4 million US properties have >1% chance of experiencing a wildfire during a mortgage. US insurers and lenders will be among the first to respond with new pricing, no doubt.
Meanwhile thinking of everyone in Tasman, Buller and West Coast regions, expecting 6 months of rain in 2 days…. again! Go figure. Kia kaha.
Another week’s collection of signals from near and far futures…
⛙The Merge is happening
The Ethereum mainnet merge (discussed briefly in Memia 2022.28) is now officially scheduled… likely mid-September:
💰Charter cities or conspiracies?
I’ve been tracking recent developments in the UK debate about Charter Cities and Freeports. Both Tory leadership candidates (Sunak and Truss) are advocating for more “Charter Cities“ - Truss’ describes “Full fat Freeports” - special investment zones that would benefit from low taxes, reduced planning restrictions and regulations “tailored on a case-by-case basis”.
There are some pretty far out theories flying around. (Warning….may be a conspiracy theory rabbit hole…!)
The anonymous investigative website Baker Street Herald goes into incredible multi-year researched detail on the backers of several other international Charter City efforts (including the ZEDE of Prospera in Honduras, previously covered in Memia 2021.39). The BSH’s main argument is that Britain’s Brexit was “The Gateway to reshaping the World’s economy“ and that the move to enable Charter Cities in the UK is a deliberate post-Brexit strategy, funded by an elite cabal of international investors to create a network of low tax, low regulation “Special Economic Zones” around the world, starting in the UK.
Fascinating, comprehensive research on a subject which doesn’t get much coverage anywhere else… take a read of the BSH Tabula Rasa investigation here.
(Incidentally the concept of ZEDEs was criticised by many in Honduras as an attack on the nation's sovereignty and earlier this year, the new Honduran president Xiomara Castro signed a measure to repeal the enabling legislation, leaving the existing ZEDEs in limbo…watch this space)
Academic Chris Grey in the investigative news site Byline Times published a more relaxed overview of the Charter City proposals: Beware the Charter Cities Conspiracy Theory.
The Baker Street Herald viewpoint is somewhat backed up by this blurt from the UK Taxpayers Alliance:
(I’ve previously been sympathetic to the concept of new Charter Cities of one shape or another as being a solution to many of the population / environmental challenges facing humanity into the future… and the concept is not a million miles away from Network States… keeping an open mind and side-eye on this one.)
🏬High street of the future?
🎩 John McDermott for spotting this: with high streets in Aotearoa now increasingly empty and retail not showing any signs of returning, perhaps this concept for rentable livestreaming / coworking booths at street level might be an idea to try?
In Memia 2022.24 I covered suggestions to cover lakes in solar panels to contain evaporation…. in India they are being installed over canals:
🚥Perovskite LED milestone
Covered in Memia on Sunday 3 April 2022 Solar 3.0, Perovskites are a class of mineral compounds which have the same crystal structure as Calcium Titanium Oxide — eg conforming to the abstract chemical formula ABX3 — synthetic perovskites have been identified as a possible low-cost replacement material in high-efficiency photovoltaic solar cells. (See the video in that newsletter).
It is also possible that Perovskite LEDs will be used in next-generation display, lighting and communications. Perovskite LEDs have only been researched for a few years but already they are lightweight and with flexibility comparable to OLEDs, and have color purity and tunability similar to conventional LEDs based on III-V semiconductors. A recent scientific breakthrough has also shown that they can be potentially stable for over 10,000 hours of use - enough for commercial applications.
A European consortium, EuroFusion announced the start of a 5-year "conceptual design" phase for its DEMOnstration Nuclear Fusion power plant (DEMO), aiming to produce a 300 to 500 megawatt tokamak, described as "a first-of-its-kind facility that represents the next technological step after the global ITER fusion experiment." (ITER is currently the largest nuclear fusion experiment in the world, under construction in southern France and is part of a collaboration between 35 partner countries, including all of the EU, China, India, Japan, Russia, and the US.)
🤏Hand gestures UX
Pretty cool video of new camera-driven high-sensitivity UX opportunities:
(🎩 Andrew Leckie for this and several other links in the last few newsletters.)
Point Network is “the newest implementation of web 3.0 decentralized internet“:
“Point Labs has invented and built Point Network, the first of its kind network which decentralizes every major component of the legacy internet: decentralized domains, decentralized storage, decentralized identities. Which makes this architecture the only network deserving to be called "web3", fulfilling the dream of a fully decentralized internet.“
You can download the Alpha browser here: https://pointnetwork.io/ … still early days, but you can see where this is going in response to centralised state surveillance and control such as the Tornado Cash case above.
🎾A tennis court on the moon🌕
This is amazing, but not unexpected. RunwayML are developing a generative AI text-to-video process similar to DALL-E 2… can you imagine the creative opportunities from these tools inside standard video editing software… or even just TikTok/Instagram?
Yuk. This ad turned up in my feed this week… it’s definitely her personality that’s attractive, right?
Two links to tickle the neurons this week:
🤯“Physicists create” is definitely my favourite mind expanding trope:
🔃And this is a good read on the need for all businesses to move urgently beyond “sustainability” and towards “regeneration”:
“We need to redesign our economy, especially our food system, to be circular. What do I mean by circular? A system where everything feeds back into itself and enhances the system and creates resilience. Typically, in nature, things get decomposed, go back into a nutrient cycle, and come back in another format. In our current “extract and deplete,” linear system, we take [something] and then we put it in a landfill, and it doesn’t decompose in a way that allows nutrients to become readily available, and actually causes a host of longer term issues.“
⌛What we owe the future
Will MacAskill is a prolifically high achieving philosopher at the University of Oxford’s Global Priorities Institute who helped to create the effective altruism movement and also co-founded 80,000 Hours (a non-profit that provides research and advice on “how you can best make a difference with your career”).
His forthcoming book What We Owe The Future has taken 5 years to write and explores the theory and practice behind longtermism - the philosophical position that trying to make the world better for future generations should be a key priority of our time.
Here he is on a typically lengthy 80,000 hours podcast discussing the book:
“Homo sapiens have been around for about 300,000 years. If we live as long as typical mammal species, we will survive for hundreds of thousands of years. If we last until the Earth is no longer habitable, we will last for hundreds of millions of years. If one day we take to the stars and have a civilisation that is interstellar, then we could survive for hundreds of trillions of years. I don’t know which of those it will be. I think we should give some probability to all of them, as well as some probability to near-term extinction, maybe within our lifetimes or the coming centuries… But taking that all into account, and even on the kind of low estimates — such as us living as long as a typical mammal species — the future is truly vast. So on that low estimate, there are about 1,000 people in the future for every person alive today. When we look at those longer time scales that civilisation could last for, there are millions, billions, or even trillions of people to come for every person alive today.”
Related: Deep Time Underground: fascinating article where Vincent Ialeti discusses his social anthropological findings speaking with the engineers who designed Finland’s “Safety Case” for its massive new underground nuclear waste storage facility:
“The Safety Case explored whether potential radiation exposures to future populations would be safely below the country’s legal limits, even tens or hundreds of thousands of years from now.“
Three shout-outs to movers and shakers around the motu this week:
Spyfish Aotearoa is a crowd-sourced initiative which uses machine learning to identify fish in underwater videos using data labelled by citizen scientists:
(More details here from Victor Anton’s wildlife.ai website on using AI to identify New Zealand fish)
Canterbury reusable rocket startup Dawn Aerospace is getting pretty nifty at landing their craft.
(And yes, the cognitive dissonance of continuing to flag the climate crisis while cheering on a local space rocket startup is not lost on me…)
Plant a wetland
John Hart (aka Farmgeek) is a man of many facets - Green Party candidate, farmer, technologist, prolific Twitter game and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic he also continued to publish essential daily Covid case graph updates… his latest initiative is to plant a new wetland at his farm in the Wairarapa - details (and how to donate) below.
Nuggets and gems
Three nuggets caught in the meme net to finish this week:
The days are long but the years are short
Beautiful new painting(?) technique by artist Sergi Cadenas.
Cutting edge agritech
This made me laugh out loud, I know a few teams working on exactly this use case right now…
Thanks as always to everyone who gets in touch each week with ideas, thoughts, feedback, links - always appreciated!
See you again next week.