🔮 Dall-E; unlocking science; China & India peak emissions; panda thumbs++ #385
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.
Dept of the near future
🖼️ Looming over
Only $15 in Dall-E credits generated a pretty impressive image of a llama dunking. Joy Zhang explains how.
Now, I haven’t commissioned an image in a long time, but based on the cost of simple photography, $15 seems like a pretty good deal. We have here a power tool, perhaps like a mechanized loom, albeit for images of less tangible value than cloth. (Text-to-video may be next.)
🔬 Focus your research
Against the backdrop of breakthrough science becoming harder to achieve and the pandering of commercial research towards narrow commercial aims, could ‘focused research organisations” unlock research bottlenecks? (Groups like Wellcome Leap, whose CEO Regina Dugan I spoke to last year, might also play a role. Regina’s team recently announced a breakthrough in a single vaccine that could tackle all SARS-like betacoronaviruses).
🧭 New public infrastructure
In my book, I talk about the tension that emerges as privately-built digital tools start to resemble the essential infrastructure of modern life. One suggestion I make is that they be investigated as utility-like provisions. And now we have the government-backed Open Network for Digital Commerce in India which aims to level the playing field amongst India’s retailers, from giants like Amazon and Flipkart to mid-sized firms. The ONDC is “a set of specifications designed to foster open interchange and connections between shoppers, technology platforms, and retailers” rather than a digital equivalent of a nationalised retailer. Electronic ГУМ it is not.
Dept of our climate future
We invite our member, Marshall Kirkpatrick, to curate a view of our current climate status in this segment every week. Here’s Marshall: “All of this week’s news items come in the light of the massive climate investments in the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), one of the largest climate investments ever made (see EV#384). Widely debated, the IRA is expertly analysed in historical context by longtime leading climate writer Dave Roberts in this podcast. Critiques of the IRA are well-represented on Democracy Now here. Personally, after listening to both, I support critics’ perspectives but lean toward Roberts’ favorable conclusions, including on the projected impacts of the bill’s oil and gas provisions. Just as some private equity watchers posited that the carried interest provisions were half-baked red meat intended to give Sen. Sinema something to rip out, the bill-required oil and gas auctions before renewables may have been a show-pony concession to Manchin that will be met with declining market interest today, much less when the rest of the bill’s impacts drive the cost of renewable energy down further.”
Free, prior, and informed consent: That’s one of the key principles behind the newly launched SIRGE Coalition, which stands for Secure Indigenous People’s Rights in a Green Economy. MSCI analysis of 5,336 mining properties in the United States found that 97% of nickel, 89% of copper, 79% of lithium, and 68% of cobalt reserves and resources are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations, for example. The global coalition that launched last week is focused on ensuring that Indigenous communities are leaders in that transition, not sacrificed to the extractive demands of the global economy, again. The latest IPCC report cites indigenous land rights as a key lever for mitigating climate change not once, but 58 times.
100% renewable consensus: A meta study by 15 academic institutions says that the feasibility of providing 100% of the world’s energy needs using renewable energy, first discussed in scientific literature in 1975 as a viable target for the year 2050, is now firmly in the scientific mainstream. 2021 was the first time that 100 peer review papers were published about 100% renewables in a single year, up 50% year-over-year. The number of published studies has grown by 27% annually since the year 2010. “Many young people are depressed because they feel climate change cannot be stopped,” renowned researcher and project participant Auke Hoekstra said, “We want to offer them hope by showing that our world can get all its energy needs from renewables at a price below that of fossil fuels. When we first proposed this, we were ridiculed, but this paper shows our ideas are now scientific mainstream.”
China and India: China’s iron and steel industries will hit peak emissions and begin to decline in 2025, according to a newly released industry action plan. Friend of EV Ramez Naam shared this and called it “more good news.” Relatedly, PV Magazine reports that “India added 8.3 GW of solar capacity in the first six months of 2022, up 71% from the same period last year… analysts expect India to install about 20 GW of solar this year, including 16.5 GW of utility-scale capacity and 3.5 GW of rooftop PV.” For context, installation of 20 GW of solar in India in a single year can be compared to the estimate early this year that US installed capacity is now a total of 121.4 GW.
CHIPS for climate: While the IRA got all the attention, Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic writes the easily bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act is also one of the biggest allocations toward renewable energy in US history. “Over the next five years, the CHIPS Act could direct an estimated $67 billion, or roughly a quarter of its total funding, toward accelerating the growth of zero-carbon industries and conducting climate-relevant research, according to an analysis from RMI, a nonpartisan energy think tank based in Colorado. That would make the CHIPS Act one of the largest climate bills ever passed by Congress.” Speaking of RMI, Leah Louis-Prescott and Rachel Golden there published research on the momentum of local governments in getting fossil fuels out of buildings: “Across the United States, 80 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage the move off fossil fuels to all-electric homes and buildings. As of August 2022, nearly 28 million people across 11 states live in a jurisdiction where local policies favor fossil fuel-free, healthy buildings.”
Short morsels to appear smart while fiddling with your thumbs
🧵 Harold Jarche argues that through our own actions “a networked commons can emerge and deal with the critical challenges ignored by governments and markets.”
🧠 Glutamate levels may explain why thinking makes us tired. h/t Vishal Gulati
🛫 United pays a $100 million deposit for a fleet of flying taxis.
🐼 👍 Panda thumbs.
We had a thrilling pair of members’ briefings this week where I shared the major macro themes I have spotted after hundreds of conversations in business, technology, politics and science this year. Thanks to all those who attended!
What you’re up to – notes from EV members
Congrats to Claus Nehmzow on joining Binex Singapore as CEO.
Vess Ignatova on constructing strategic arguments.
Anish Mohammed writes about Tornado Cash and the future of decentralisation.
Ken Pucker on dangers of the ESG investing movement.
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.)