🔮 Crypto economy; collective intelligence vs. markets; Uber waste, cats, synthetic art ++ #374

Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies.

This week on the podcast

Can collective intelligence beat the market? Azeem gets together with Richard Craib, founder and CEO of Numerai, to discuss how the $70 million fund uses collective intelligence to perform well, despite the turmoil in the markets.

Dept of the near future

🔮 Uses of crypto
Matt Prewitt of the RadicalXchange foundation sums up some important ideas of how alternative currencies could support local communities, and reinforce those economies. First they might capture “locally-meaningful information in prices”. This would, in turn, “facilitate more local transactions, as opposed to global ones.” To ensure support of local participants rather than a global average, he even recommends “exit taxes”. Thought provoking ideas.

Another useful analysis from Lyn Alden underpins the importance of taking more than a Western perspective for certain technologies. It has long been suggested that bitcoin could be used as a means of remittance for less common currency pairs (like the Korean Won, Filipino Peso). Alden brings us up to date with examples from Nigeria, Venezuela and Togo.

👀 Uber waste
Uber has burnt through $30bn and has diminished America’s limited public transport along with it, argues Henry Grabar. EV reader and astute Uber watcher Alison Griswold asks if Uber can ever be profitable. I thought Grabar’s framing was very interesting: Uber did crowd out public transport and increase congestion, while also cracking the oligopolistic practices of many cab businesses across the world. Would there have been a way of reforming (and growing the ride sharing market, clearly an unmet need) in some other way?

🏭 Friends with factories
Watching the global supply chains refactor is fascinating. Apple is looking to boost its production outside of China, with geopolitical concerns motivating its move and choice for alternative manufacturing bases. Vietnam may be one winner. Janet Yellen introduced the new term “friend-shoring”, where firms might seek to build their supply chain in ​​countries that ”have strong adherence to a set of norms and values about how to operate in the global economy and about how to run the global economic system.” Interesting analysis here. An excellent column by Martin Sandbu argues that deglobalisation is showing up everywhere but the data.

Sunday commentary: The next ten years

I spoke at a Google event this week celebrating ten years of the UK’s TechNation startup programme. The past decade has seen a fascinating deepening of the UK’s tech scene.

In 2012, the whole of the tech scene was valued at $53bn. A year later it weighed in at a smidgen under a trillion dollars, representing a compounded annual growth of in excess of 32%.

Examining this ten-year retrospective with Marta Krupinska got me thinking about what has been happening in the core exponential technology domains, and what might happen next. My Sunday commentary is available here for Premium members of Exponential View.

Unlock my weekly commentary by becoming a paying member of Exponential View. Academic discounts for teachers and students are available, email support@exponentialview.co to learn more.

Dept of our climate future

In every Sunday edition, we track key metrics that tell us a little about our shared climate future. Our member, Marshall Kirkpatrick, curates this section every week, with the aim to bring stories about the positive climate future. Here’s Marshall:

One day, years ago, a team member of mine, faced with a daunting development in the data supply chain we worked off of, said something I’ll never forget: ‘This is reality, and we’re going to deal with it.’ This past week, we in the United States faced the clear reality that regular spates of violent death for groups of children isn’t going to move a significant part of this country to change their feelings about gun control law. Likewise, fact-based pleas about the medium and long-term wellbeing of current and future generations may be necessary, but they clearly aren’t sufficient. Read on for our latest collection of imperfect-but-positive developments in the broad movement for climate justice and sustainability. This is reality, and here are some more ways we’re going to deal with it.

Some good signs: Auctions of US offshore oil drilling rights, wherein the biggest oil companies in the world bid millions of dollars to drill thousands of acres of the ocean and gulf floors for oil, have declined over recent years. With the cancelation of 3 auctions this year, the number of auctions to be held in 2022 will be… zero.

Lack of industry interest and ongoing lawsuits were cited as the cause. Past auctions have been live-streamed online, with event excitement in inverse proportion to the stakes (for us, at least). More exciting may be the news that the US Department of Energy will provide $3.5B in funding for the development of four Direct Air Capture facilities to extract CO2 from the air, though hundreds of environmental organizations have condemned such carbon capture schemes fundamentally as cover for oil companies to continue profiting from emissions.  (Relatedly, see Azeem’s conversation last month with Shayle Kann on VC and deep decarbonisation.)

Perhaps Australia’s new federal government can do even better: as of this week, that coal-rich country will be led by politicians who focused on climate change in their campaigns, and in many cases were outside the two leading parties.  Of course the new Prime Minister ​​Anthony Albanese campaigned on both new investments for renewables and more money for coal mines.

Source: Marshall Kirkpatrick

Get in the game: Grist recently covered an intriguing development in New Zealand. An indigenous Maori community, faced with a real-time climate adaptation decision: whether to spend money to fortify, or to relocate their sacred site away from a place of now-imminent flooding, has developed a climate change board game to help community members make their decision. The game, called Marae-opoly, walks players through risks and adaptation decisions, with odds playing out in possible future scenarios for reflection. As a novel climate-communications strategy, it allowed players to “openly have difficult discussions about their options—to either stay and defend the marae [sacred site] from oncoming floods, or move the cultural and spiritual hub of their community.” Out-of-game, they decided to move, and expect to have to move again.  The game’s co-creators explained in the journal Sustainability Science: “Far from being passive and/or static victims of climate change, indigenous peoples are hybridising knowledge systems, and challenging and negotiating new environmental and social realities to develop their own adaptation options within their own registers of what is place and culture appropriate.”

Europe’s biggest battery recycler: Operations have begun at the largest battery recycling facility in Europe: Norway’s Hydrovolt will have the capacity to process 12,000 tons of battery packs per year, or around 25,000 EV batteries. That’s expected to be all the end-of-life batteries currently available in Norway, a country that saw early adoption of electric vehicles. The recycler says it can capture 95% of the materials used in an EV. Skeptical readers of the publication Electrek wonder whether the projections accurately account for massive growth of EVs in the future, but Hydrovolt’s parent companies are planning to expand throughout Europe. One independent battery recycler tells me that operations at this scale can undercut the local networks of battery recycling that are also forming around the world (some Europeans recycle car batteries for home solar, others to resell as replacements for car owners, etc). So take heart, there are also decentralised and local networks forming to recycle and reuse these parts of the EV economy.

Short morsels to appear smart while synthesising vitamin D

🧬 The gene-synthesis revolution: past and future.

🍅 Gene edited tomatoes could produce vitamin D, a crucial nutrient that usually comes from animal sources (namely fishy ones).

🧠 How cooperation may have shrunk our brains, and why that’s a good thing.

🏛️Laurence Tosi and Marc Andreessen’s takes on “The Great Revaluation”.

🤔 That moment when Tesla is kicked off the N&P 500 ESG Index, while Exxon and Marathon Oil are added. Having a spot in the Index seems to be more about reporting and detailed strategies than actual positive impact.

🐈 Cats learning names for people and other cats: miaow.

Graphene and cement might be the climate’s new hottest couple (pun not intended).

🎓 Why, maybe, you shouldn’t learn from the best.

🚆 Walmart is launching the first large-scale drone delivery service in the US

🖼️ “An art gallery displaying Monet paintings. The art gallery is flooded. Robots are going around the art gallery using paddle boards.": Imagen (left) vs Dalle-E (right).

Via Benjamin Hilton

End note


Marija here, managing director at Exponential View, taking over the End Note to share some good news from our community.

This week, our member Ramsay Brown announced the launch of Mission Control, an enterprise platform for predicting AI failures before they happen and accelerating AI ethics. Mission Control is the first product to come out of The AI Responsibility Lab (AIRL), LA-based Public Benefit Corporation on a mission to enable safe and profitable outcomes for AI at scale. Ramsay presented Mission Control to members of the Exponential Do community earlier this year, sharing his vision for the future of AI Safety and AIRL’s work:

When we think about the 2037 timescale, we see the greatest existential threat around the notion of intelligence take-off... that AI has become sufficiently advanced enough that we’re [...] approaching the point in time in which we cannot make adequate prediction about what happens next because we’re out of too many loops. [...] One of the things you want in the world like that [is] what we call Hofstadter Detectors [inspired by Hofstadter’s “I Am a Strange Loop”] to target advanced autonommous systems to see how sufficiently self-referential they’ve become.

Two members of the Exponential Do community are investors in AIRL’s latest $2 million funding round, and we’re proud to say that at least one of the two investments was mediated through the connections in the Exponential Do community.

Congrats to Rams and his team, we will be cheering you on as you advance AI safety forward.

And to all of you reading, I hope you consider joining the Exponential Do commmunity – we are striving to build a network you can trust, grow with, and advance no matter what exponential mission you’re on – while being grounded in kindness and curiosity. Check the requirements, and apply to join Exponential Do here.

Have a great start to your week,


What you’re up to – notes from EV readers

Stefan Magdalinski and his team at Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralised Web launched an RFP to fund $3.5m in decentralised web projects.

Sarah Gold is working on bringing design and trust into the software supply chain with Google, and is starting to see major results.

Co-founder and CEO Katya Sverdlov and her team at JelikaLite received FDA Breakthrough Device designation and a National Science Foundation SBIR grant. They’re developing non-invasive brain stimulation to improve the quality of life of children on the autism spectrum.

Louis Rosenberg writes about the early days of Augmented Reality research in IEEE Spectrum.

Dan Smith wrote an article showing how Predictive Digital Twins can help to scale offshore wind.  

Gabriele Mazzini, the team leader for the AI Act at the European Commission, co-authored a paper about the key concepts and principles of the draft bill.

Dr Antonio Weiss, affiliated researcher at Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute, explores why British politicians have so little to say about technology and what a progressive digital agenda should look like.

To share your projects and updates, fill out your details here. Because of space constraints, we prioritise updates from paying members and startups I have invested in. (You can become the former by subscribing, if you have not already, and the latter by getting an intro to me via a trusted contact.)

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