🔮 AI & culture; European defense & innovation; crypto emperors; lost languages ++ #379

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.

🧭 I am away this weekend taking my youngest daughter camping, so this week’s EV is a little shorter than normal. Premium members will get my thoughts on what the new defensive posture in Europe means for innovation and the green transition separately – see the Sunday Commentary below, and a special announcement in my End Note.

The near future


🤔 AI hype
A great deal of children’s fiction is formulaic and dreadful. This is why a combination of large AI models (such as GPT-3 and DALL-E) can produce illustrated children’s stories that could pass muster. This tells us less about “artificial intelligence” but more about “natural stupidity” –  the dumbing down of media and culture in the name of sales volume.

Elsewhere: Karen Hao on how big company AI hype doesn’t match reality. This is a  great analysis of how computational performance for AI workloads has improved over the past several years, with the introduction of competitors like Habana and Graphcore to Nvida. The real secret though: “Most of the gains can be attributed to software, not hardware.”

The emperor’s new clothes
Charlie Warzal argues the crypto emperors have no clothes. It is a valuable critique as we try to figure out when crypto will show its mettle. See also, the “Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act” is the Bill that could set the basis for crypto regulation in the United States. This article helps make sense of it.

🧠 More than 5G
Smarter cities, not “smart cities”: The key to building better cities is to take a holistic approach, and use technology as one of the tools in the toolbox to improve positive social and environmental outcomes.

Sunday commentary: What is it good for?


War, huh, yeah
What is it good for?

Edwin Star - War (What is it Good For?)

The war in Europe has forced many European nations to rethink their understanding of security. NATO is finding its mojo again. In my Sunday commentary I discuss what this means in the context of the transition to the Exponential Age.

🔐
The rest of today’s Sunday Commentary is open to members of Exponential View. See my End Note below for a one-time discount on annual membership. 

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, takes the time to curate a view of our current climate status in this segment every week, and you can read Marshall’s curation below. Here’s Marshall: “On Monday the Secretary General of the UN published an editorial titled ‘The world is burning. We need a renewables revolution.’  It was republished by media outlets around the world. Below, selected from more than 50 optimistic stories we considered this week, are four of our favorite examples of just that kind of renewables revolution underway.”

500% regional growth in renewable energy: Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa now have 114 utility-scale solar farms and 45 utility-scale wind farms planned for construction in the next 8 years, a 500% increase on current capacity and aimed to deliver on 91% of the Arab League’s renewable energy goal by 2030. That’s according to a new study from Global Energy Monitor, a 24 year-old San Francisco-based NGO that spun out of the venerable Earth Island Institute. In 2013, the Arab League committed to increasing the region’s installed renewable power generation capacity from 12 gigawatts in 2013 to 80 GW in 2030. For context, there are an estimated 54 GW of wind power capacity installed world-wide (with growth rate accelerating 3X last year), the United States alone has 121 GW of solar capacity already installed, and Germany’s 2030 solar goal is 215 GW. Nonetheless, 5X growth in the next 8 years is pace-setting work; hopefully the Arab League’s growth in renewables will continue to accelerate and inspire the rest of the world.

Green jobs growing fastest: The US Department of Energy has issued a new report finding that “net-zero aligned jobs” (so, including nuclear) grew faster than nonrenewable energy jobs last year and now make up 41% of all energy jobs in the US. Imagine a future when renewable energy jobs outnumber non-renewable energy jobs all over the world.

Heavy decarbonisation: The part of the supply chain wherein goods are taken off of ships and driven away from ports in very large trucks is expected to rapidly replace diesel vehicles with zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), according to longtime renewables industry leader Adam Browning. In an excellent Tweet thread this week, Browning explains: “Heavy duty transportation, one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise, is going to go through a radical transformation toward zero emission vehicles in the US in a matter of months and years, not decades… California regulators have put together a package of carrots and sticks to force heavy duty port transport - called drayage - to move to ZEVs. Starting January 2024, only ZEVs will be allowed to be added to the drayage registry. At the same time, CA is incentivising chargers, charging, and ZEV truck purchases. The result will be an entire ecosystem of ZEV infrastructure and heavy duty trucks. In a matter of months, the US fleet of HD ZEVs will increase ~45X. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but over the next 10 years much of the entire California drayage fleet - 33,000 trucks – will be electrified.” Notably, Mr. Browning is on the board of a ZEV company, but don’t you wish you had board members posting quotable tweet-threads about radical sustainability transformations?

Better than decarbonised globalisation: Hyperlocal economics by way of indigenous land back and related work saw several positive developments this week. For context, Indigenous land rights are cited 58 times in the latest IPCC report as a key lever for mitigating climate change. New York State will return 1,000 acres of land, most recently owned by Honeywell, to the Onondaga Nation in a legal settlement. Likewise, this week the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued its first ever ruling in favor of reparations for stolen indigenous land. The court ruled that the Republic of Kenya must pay the Indigenous Ogiek people reparations for decades of illegal evictions from their ancestral land in the Mau Forest. And in Colombia, a ruling by the Constitutional Court now requires the government to register applications filed for 14 Indigenous territorial entities covering a combined 25 million (!) acres of the Colombian Amazon, according to a new write-up in Mongabay. As artist Kolja Reichert put it weeks ago in introducing an amazing international panel at Studio Bonn: “We live in a time of renegotiation of global relations and the examination of debts and crimes from the past — just at the moment when all eyes are on preventing the extermination of life on earth in the near future.” We can do it!

Short morsels to appear smart while looking for traces of life on Mars


🚗 In Germany, SUV drivers can be fined more than other vehicles for breaking traffic laws because of the increased threat they pose to pedestrians.

💣 How much does it cost to orchestrate a DDoS cyber attack? Much less than you think. (Disclaimer: This is not a how-to guide).

👽 Finding out whether there was ever life on Mars could help us understand the origins of life.

🌠 Explore evolution of consciousness throughout time and species in this illustrated guide.

📖 Researchers are discovering lost languages thanks to technology that uncovers texts that have been written over by monks in Egypt.

🐛 A superworm that can eat plastic foam.

End note


The paperback version of my book is coming out on July 14! You can pre-order it here – send us the receipt to paperback@exponentialview.co to get 50% off the annual membership + my take on the Exponential Age in 12 charts.

Cheers,
Azeem

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