Memia 2022.45: 8 billion (and counting)🌍// ↖️divided narratives↗️// Twitter (parody)🤡// autonomous vehicle⛐// geo-engineering already here?🌪️// futurium🔮// blueprints for intelligence🕸️
FTX Risk Management Dept.
Welcome to another weekly Memia scan across the future as it unfolds, viewed from the edge of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand. As always, thanks for being here!
(And sorry for late arrival of the newsletter this week… so much going on… *must* *type* *faster*)
Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington-based Memia readers are welcome to join me for an informal get-together at 5pm on Wednesday 30th November, get in touch for details.
(Also, pencilling in meetups in Tāmaki Makaurau (lunchtime Wed 8th Dec) and Ōtautahi (2nd week Dec TBC)…more details next week.
This week’s ⏩Fast Forward Aotearoa instalment looked at the potential impact of robotic automation, additive manufacturing and nanofabrication on Aotearoa’s future productive economy: fundamentally, do we just want to keep making / growing raw “stuff” as a nation… or start making the machines (…that make the machines…) that make the stuff? Now’s the time to make the policy choices…
🙏🙏Special shout out to everyone who has stumped up for a paid Memia subscription in the last few weeks… your ongoing support is hugely appreciated!🙏🙏
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Also in the last week…
🌍8 billion (and counting)
The estimated global population hit 8 billion people yesterday evening around 9pm NZT. Insane.
Where to from here? The UN’s official models project at least another 2 billion people before 2080… but as with many models don’t seem to take account of the planet’s ecological ability to sustain a population of that size — there are some other models which predict a steep population decline sometime over the next 20 years.
Another week of news narratives going off in all directions…
A few sideways glances from me on the main stories this week:
Against relentless Fox News predictions of a “Red Wave”, the Democrats (just) retained control of the Senate… and still (just) with an outside chance of a majority in the House!
Whatever, the Biden White House now has two more years of international weight.
While the mainstream media continued to play this as party politics as usual (basically a referendum on nearly-octogenarian president Joe Biden vs. his nearly-octogenarian predecessor Donald Trump), a couple of more spicy takes point to deeper demographic changes:
(This generational change in the electorate is happening here too. Next year could just be the big one).
Also, with the US having experienced a total predicted number of excess deaths since 1 Feb 2020 across the United States of 1,221,575 (skewed towards older citizens and unvaccinated), Covid-19 may also have played its part in the election result:
Above all, the second major peaceful democratic election in as many weeks! Things are looking up.
As trailed in breaking news last week, Bahamas-based FTX, the 2nd-largest (centralised) crypto exchange in the world filed for bankruptcy, with its valuation effectively going from US$32B to US$0 in a single day! Details are still sketchy but founder Sam Bankman-Fried (“SBF”) appears to have been overseeing a massive fraud where ~US$10Bn of supposedly secured customer deposits were used to back risky trades by FTX’s partner firm Alameda… predictable really…
Best writeup I’ve read is from Trung Phan: FTX: the US$32Bn implosion
SBF attempted to sell FTX to largest competitor Binance … but was brutally rebuffed within 24hrs.
The FT got hold of a leaked internal FTX balance sheet which included a strangely named asset “TRUMPLOSE”. (Co-)incidentally SBF was the 2nd biggest Democratic Party donor… cue conspiracy theories that FTX was an US govt “false flag” operation against the whole crypto space…
The whole centralised crypto space may yet implode… there are currently runs happening on Crypto.com, Blockfi as fallout from FTX. Revelations of a big mutual lending pool underpinning the whole sector…
Reminder: Not your keys, not your coins…
FTX got hacked to the tune of US$600M of crypto straight after the news… this is now being tracked around the various blockchains and appears to be an “inexperienced” insider who passed some through their own personal trading account…
FTX was not regulated. That crypto “money” has gone “poof” and FTX will NOT be bailed out by the Fed.
Other than that, the parallel with mainstream banks is… er…
Next up: Tether / USDT?
Oh and the Bitcoin price is now down well below where it is economically efficient to mine:
Fundamentally, this shakeout is likely not over. Much of the raw speculation and grifting which has dominated crypto in last few years is being continually exposed as the “ponzi casino” it clearly is. BUT the underlying functionality and capacity of core crypto / DeFi protocols could increasingly show their value over the next few years. (But they’ll likely just become invisible plumbing behind the world’s next-generation financial system…)
(Also, the FTX implosion is causing fallout for the Effective Altruism movement which SBF had been an advocate and major donor to… ouch.)
🇺🇦🍈Ukraine takes back Kherson
After months of anticipation, Ukrainian military finally took control of the West Bank of the Dnipro river and the city of Kherson. Much celebration in the streets… but Russia’s brutal missile bombardment of civilians across Ukraine continued…
(Overnight, breaking (unconfirmed) reports that two missiles crossed the border, killing two in Poland. That will escalate things. What is Putin’s endgame…?)
At the time of writing, Twitter is *still up* despite taking all the bloated microservices *down*. It feels like at least 50% of tweets in my feed now feature Elon Musk in some way or another. (Impossible to avoid Elon’s threads being screenshotted even if you mute him).
His dictatorial management “style” is definitely not to everyone’s taste (“Work from the office or be fired”).
Memia reader Rob England nails it just What Elon Musk’s motivation Is:
“Elon thinks he is smarter than all of us put together. He believes he has hacked the whole system of leadership and business. Tesla and especially SpaceX demonstrate how an agile, experimental, deliberately-failing approach moves fast and gets results.
He thinks he is demonstrating the future to us.
If he pulls this off - which he might - then he will re-confirm his genius. And his sociopathy. He doesn't GAF about staff or customers, or society, except for his need for admiration, even worship. He's a dangerous man who just might rule the world before this century is over. He knows he has the potential to do it.
For those of you who like popular culture references, he's a cross between Tony Stark and Asimov's Mule.
I'm watching with horrified fascination.“
Engineers weigh in: Why Twitter will fail shortly.
The short-lived $8 Bluecheck experiment was an entertaining fiasco:
For a week, there were some fantastic funny moments… in particular, US insulin maker Eli Lilly got caught best:
Outcome of which: whoever saw this coming in the rules of “free speech”?!
But worthwhile there are some efforts underway to preserve the Twitter social graph - for example OpenCheck is trying to preserve the value of Twitter for science community by open-sourcing the graph using ORCIDs.
Lateral thinker Jordan Hall also chimed in:
“It seems self-evident to me that the best evolution for Twitter is as a platform supporting a meshwork of “network states” and similar next-gen networks. AKA - Sovereignty as a Service.”
Also in the zeitgeist:
Unbelievably Iran’s parliament voted by a big majority to execute 15,000 protesters. The international response must be as forceful as possible…not part of any future of humanity.
…a week before shaking hands with Joe Biden at the G20 in Indonesia and vowing to “avoid conflict”
Canada introduced investment tax credits for renewables
In Australia thousands have been evacuated due to floods caused by heavy rainfall. The volume of water which was released from the Wyangula dam in NSW on Monday is terrifying:
Tech layoffs are soaring in November: in addition to Twitter (~7,000), Meta (11,000) and Amazon (10,000) announced big job cuts this week.
◀️Reversing climate change?
One of the focuses of the ongoing COP27 conference is climate equity. The graphic below shows in stark relief the imbalance between those who have caused climate change and those who are affected by it. (And if you took Australia and Aotearoa out of the “Global South” it would be even more). No easy solution here.
Climate capital flows are still woefully low:
Zeke Hausfather, climate lead at internet payments firm Stripe and IPCC contributor has a more radical suggestion: instead of aiming to just minimise the overshoot above 1.5 degrees, we should actively invest in reversing it through permanent CO2 sequestration. (Stripe is one of the founding firms of the Frontier fund advance market commitment to accelerate carbon removal). An entirely new system of capital will be needed?
Tech continues to effectively accelerate…
🌊What comes after social media?
Primer’s Sean Gourley is often correct about things to do with AI.
(How would you know if a tweet, post or image was generated by AI? Would you care?)
If The Age of Social Media Is Ending, what comes after?
Chinese police are investigating a crash involving a Tesla Model Y after the driver lost control of the vehicle, reportedly killing 2 people. The video below is terrifying.
Whether this particular incident turns out to be human error or a hardware or software malfunction, it’s only a matter of time before we see a story like this where a car with autonomous driving functionality is hacked and the driver can’t control it.
🌪️Geo-engineering already here?
Scoop.co.nz editor Alastair Thompson is a journalist currently covering COP27. This thread hasn’t got much attention outside NZ Twitter… but if he’s correct then hughe-scale geo-engineering to impact weather patterns on a continental scale is already underway.
(Maintaining very high levels of scepticism…this whole field intersects with Chemtrail and HAARP conspiracy theories about weather control). But Thompson has published the data for peer review… keeping an eye on developments.)
Too much of a good CO2 thing?
Increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are gradually making it harder for plants to absorb the vital nutrients they need to grow (and that we need to eat):
Industry rumours that Apple’s first version of “RealityOS” operating system for its highly anticipated mixed reality headset is nearly finished, with the firm now hiring roles related to content production and XR authoring tools.
Here’s a roundup of what’s “known” so far:
3D printing is real
When researching this week’s Fast Forward Aotearoa post, I came across this roundup of what’s being done with 3D printing… amazing advances in the last few years!
The Global Biodiversity Score (GBS) is a tool that enables companies and banks to gain an overall picture of how their activities and supply chains impact the planet’s natural ecosystems. Vattenfall, a Swedish state-owned energy company, is one of the first companies around the world to carry out an analysis of how the company’s economic activities impact biodiversity throughout its value chain.
Can standard rooftop solar cells produce hydrogen in an energy-efficient, emissions-negative way? Hmm…
The French government just legislated that all large parking lots now need to be covered in solar panels. That will be 11GW of new solar generation capacity - equivalent to 10 nuclear reactors.
(Aotearoa can easily follow…: Would be one way to get rid of Wilson Parking from Ōtautahi’s vacant post-earthquake sections, eh…)
Domain and Capability model
I still keep my oar dipped into the Enterprise Architecture space from time to time. The Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency has released its Domain and Capability Model groups government capabilities into an integrated set of 11 domains:
Government service delivery
Shared data and insights
(🎩Pia Andrews for sharing). If you’re working in public sector EA, worth digging into and reusing. (All CC BY 4.0)
Kit Hindin has been visiting Berlin: Every city needs a Futurium!
🕸️Blueprints for intelligence
Thanks Anna Pendergrast for sharing this beautiful collection of AI visual representations over time by Phillipp Schmidt, Blueprints for Intelligence:
Photovoltaic cells being researched right now are approaching 50% efficiency! (Source)
The Art Of Gig
Venkatash Rao get my vote for probably the most prolifically fertile mind on the internet. I’m looking forward to reading this collection of his essays just released.
A few nods around the motu as usual…
A fair chance for all
I missed the latest report from the Productivity Commission, A Fair Chance For All when it was released in September.
It contains this “iceberg” model explaining why better outcomes are so hard to achieve with our current government and policy model… the DEEPER you go, the more leverage you get:
“Our hypothesis is that persistent disadvantage stems from these “below the surface” values and assumptions that underpin our societal, political and economic systems. And so we see that despite the adoption of a wellbeing approach, old assumptions and mindsets remain entrenched and GDP growth retains a dominant place in discourse and policy analysis. This “paradigm”, or way of thinking, creates barriers that contribute to some people in Aotearoa New Zealand experiencing much more disadvantage in their lives than other people, and inhibits the public management system from being able to sufficiently address persistent disadvantage.”
The report nails the four main barriers to change:
Discrimination and the ongoing impact of colonisation
Siloed and fragmented government
Short-termism and status quo bias
Good work…. but will be interesting to see how its recommendations could be effected?
Post-mortem on a tragedy
Worth reading Bernard Hickey’s take on Te Pūtea Matua/RBNZ’s performance review this week. As usual he doesn’t pull his punches. A post-mortem on an inter-generational and institutional tragedy.
Waka Kotahi announced the first round of projects for their new innovation fund Hoe ki angitū, funding 24 applications for a total of NZ$4.2 million.
Congratulations also to Tait Communications for winning the AoG contract for a combined nationwide emergency services digital radio network to replace the menagerie of legacy analogue services still in use. (Spark / (Vodaf)One also won the cellular network component).
Investment in upgrading this capability is well overdue… (the previous Police digital radio network plan was scrapped back in 2013!)
Nuggets and gems
The usual trawling catch of memes…
🎩Brett Roberts for spotting this:
Game Of Thrones (90s Edition)
This is great.
That’s it for another week. As always, thanks for reading and special thanks to everyone who reaches out with feedback and links.🙏🙏🙏 Appreciated!
See you next week.