🔮 Societal collapse; Chinese internet; bad Apple; cronies, hangovers, the deep sea++ #296

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. 

📅 EV readers have had a chance to hear from Nina Schick previously. She guest-curated a recent edition looking into the evolution of state disinformation strategies and its influence of Covid-19. I will come together with Nina for a live 30-minute discussion on technologies shaping our information ecosystems and what we can do to counter negative trends, on Friday, November 27 at 3.30pm UK time / 10.30am Eastern. RSVP here if you use Linkedin, or follow our YouTube channel or Twitter for updates.

📖 Members can now read the transcript of my conversation with Mike Schroepfer, CTO of Facebook. Full podcast is available to all to listen here.

The near future

⛈️ The academic subdiscipline of societal collapse, which was arguably born in 1988, has never had more to pore over. So, how are the scholars who specialise in it faring? Surprisingly well. A key, and oddly reassuring, quote: “A disaster — even a severe one like a deadly pandemic, mass social unrest or a rapidly changing climate — can […] never be enough by itself to cause collapse.”

🥒 Exponential technologies are radically transforming food production. I got together with the CEO of 80 Acres Farms, Mike Zelkind, to explore vertical indoor farming that relies on renewables, machine learning & robotics. We discuss how it could be a step towards fixing the broken food supply chain while delivering nutritious food more sustainably.

🐛 Apple has long prided itself on its privacy credentials. However, the MacOS Big Sur update wrecks them. The new OS prevents VPNs running securely and leaks data to various Apple services. It isn’t a good look, especially as all of Apple’s new M1 Macs insist on Big Sur. (M.G. Siegler emphasises how the M1 kind of trashes all other laptop makers’ plans.)

🦠 Stunning story on how Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci created the first major Covid-19 vaccine. One insight: “Just two weeks after the genetic sequence of Sars-Cov-2 was made public on January 12, BioNTech began its Covid-19 vaccine programme.” (Two months later, UK PM Boris Johnson was still proudly shaking hands with Covid patients… the testament to those trained in science vs those who are not?) See also Richard Jones good explanation “nanomedicine comes of age with mRNA medicines.”

👌 Friend of EV, John Thornhill tries out GPT-3 for himself, writing:

Impressive as its current performance is in many respects, the true significance of GPT-3 may well lie in the capabilities it develops for the generation of models that come after it.

Good essay, terrible headline. I discussed GPT-3 with the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman. (Another fun essay exploring the boundaries of intelligence is Richard Fisher’s “The intelligent monster that you should let eat you.”)

😮🇨🇳 Xi Jinping personally scuttled the IPO of Jack Ma’s Ant. “What Xi cares about is what you do after you get rich, and whether you’re aligning your interests with the state’s interests.” Jack Ma is worth more than $58bn. Staying in China: Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales brought in over $74 billion in 11 days this year, compared to $38.4bn last year. In 2011, the retail orgy netted about $820m in sales. Vice President Liu Bo told reporters that many Chinese consumers may have spent more during Singles’ Day because they couldn’t travel overseas. 

💭 How tech financiers communicate: (1) The baffling world of Masayoshi Son’s Softbank presentations

(2) Seedcamp’s lucid deck, which helped the European incubator raise its fifth early-stage fund, is worth reading.

🔋 Dept of decarbonisation: 412.23ppm | 3,484 days

Each week, I’m going to remind you of the CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the number of days until we reach the 450ppm threshold.

The latest measurement (as of November 9): 412.23 ppm; November 4, 2019: 409.42 ppm; 25 years ago: 360 ppm; 250 years ago, est: 250 ppm. Share this reminder with your community by forwarding this email or tweeting this.

⭐️ The European Investment Bank Roadmap has approved €1 trillion for climate action investments to 2030. It also proposes a shadow cost of carbon of €80 per tonne CO2E rising to €800 per tonne in 2050. (Full report here.)

Carbon 180 has estimated that the total available market of ‘carbontech’ companies (companies which are aiming to reuse carbon in the atmosphere as an ingredient for sustainably-made material) could be $1 trillion annually in the US and $5.9 trillion globally.

Fortescue, the world’s fourth-largest iron miner and a firm with a dubious environmental record, is pivoting to renewables. It plans to build 235GW of wind and solar capacity. This is about equivalent to US renewable capacity of 2018.

Chart of the week

Chart of the week now arrives for members on Wednesday. You can see this week’s here.

Short morsels to appear smart during the second wave

👽 A terrifying look at the livestream shopping experience on Alibaba.

Staff who want to work from home after the pandemic should be taxed 5% for every day that they work remotely, as suggested by economists at Deutsche Bank. Dumb idea.

The link between gut microbiota and Alzheimer’s.

🤔 An apparent game-changer to reverse alcohol intoxication - a device that would let patients hyperventilate off the alcohol without decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

🙏 Sophie Hill created a wonderful map of Tory party cronyism. I love the ability to apply analytics on open-ish data to help us hold power to account. 

👎 Parler, a social network catering to the right-wing in the US, is backed by the billionaire Mercer family. See also, the conditions that produced Trump need to be addressed because he won’t be the last American populist. 

A review of Simon Baren-Cohens’s book on how the human brain evolved.

🧠 A large study found that 20% of those infected with Covid-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days.

Can listening to the deep sea help scientists take care of it?

End note

The Belgian Dewaele brothers, 2ManyDJs, produced one of my all-time favourite albums. Their 2003 release, As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt.2, is the purest exposition of bastard pop. Sadly, I lost my original CD in a house move.

Fortune smiled this week and I discovered a version of the album on Vimeo. I can’t resist not sharing. The section after 30 mins is incandescent, so too the transition from Parton to Royksopp. I’m not going to promise the vigorous blend of rock, electroclash, bootleg, pop, disco and R’n’B is everyone’s cup of chai. Purists may even find it too saccharine. But you can’t deny the wit and artistry.

Cheers,

Azeem

What you’re up to—notes from fellow EV readers

Toomas Hendrik Ilves recently spoke about how the West is losing the information war with Russia. The former president of Estonia guest-curated Exponential View back in 2018.

Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the FCC, writes about the challenges faced by the Biden transition team when it comes to technology.

Nigel Verdon’s Railbank raised $37m in growth capital

George Zarkadakis explores how data trusts could be the key to better artificial intelligence. 

Chris Yiu’s team at the Tony Blair Institute is looking for people to join their technology and public policy programme. 

Rafael Kaufman and Ramez Naam are among the readers whose work is featured in The Great Redesign, a new book about reshaping the world in crisis.

A number of EV readers are taking part in the Hello Tomorrow Summit on cutting edge technologies next week. EV readers get 20% off with promo code HELLOEXPONENTIALVIEW

To share your updates and projects with EV, email marija@exponentialview.co