🔮 Climate innovation; generative AI; cultivated meat, electric flying ++ #399
Investment in the carbon and emissions technology verticals is expected to surpass the 2021 record
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.
In today’s edition:
How investors should think about balancing out different climate mitigation timelines,
What Alibaba’s Singles’ Day performance could signal about Chinese spending,
Lab-grown meat startup gets a stamp of approval by the US FDA.
Investment in the carbon and emissions technology verticals is expected to surpass the 2021 record of $13.6 billion across 656 deals.
In an op-ed in The Economist this week, veteran climate-tech investor Vinod Khosla argues that we should double down on investment activity on technologies that deliver Net Zero by 2050. An emphasis on today’s technologies (and a 2030 timeline) could get in the way of realistically hitting the long-term goal.
Vinod is right that there are a range of technologies (like nuclear fusion, nanomaterials, biomanufacturing) which offer truly long-term solutions to sustainable prosperity. We should invest in those. But investing in today’s technologies (solar, batteries, HVDC) also makes sense unless we face a shortage of capital, talent and attention.
📊 In the latest Charts of the Week #99, we go into other aspects of the climate reality through data. Read it here.
Weekly commentary: On the generative wave (Part 1)
There has been an explosion of services in the field of generative AI. These systems, typically using large language models at their core, are expensive to build and train but much cheaper to operate.
I want to historicise this trend. Back in July 2020, I wrote that large language models — I refer to them as transformers back then, like GPT-3 — are “capable of synthesising the information and presenting it in a near usable form.” They represented an improvement over previous knowledge technologies, because they would present synthesised information rather than disparate search queries.
And in my simplistic framing, transformers were about synthesis. I studiously avoided defining what I meant by synthesis, but 30 months later, it’s time for me to refine that model.
🔒 Members of Exponential View will receive the analysis on Monday. Become a member for $10/mo.
Dept of our climate future
Every week, 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 view below.
One thing to know this week about our climate future: COP27 was a mixed bag. Scheduled to end Friday, it was supposed to be about implementation. Putting money where mouths are will be key to breaking through the distrust between the global North and South; to that end, the EU made a historic shift when it agreed early Friday to the creation of a global fund to pay for the losses and damages caused far more by rich countries than the rest of the world. But the US refuses to support anything that acknowledges harm done, because patriarchy means never having to say you’re sorry. “The U.S. is always 10 years behind the current reality,” said Harjeet Singh of Climate Action Network International. Meanwhile, commitments to cut methane, a climate killer in the short term, were signed by everyone except China and India, the top methane emitters, and Russia. It’s hard to avoid cynicism about negotiations between nation states, but the Indigenous Peoples Caucus reminds the world it’s got solutions on the ready and that it must be more included. Channeling Mr. Rogers (“look for the helpers”, for better or worse) global climate leader Dr. Katharine Hayhoe says what she’s taking from COP27 is
“all the people. Thousands of people, some of the smartest, most dedicated people in the world… most of them are here because they truly do want to make a difference, and that truly does give me hope.”
OPEC of Rainforests: Three countries, home to 52% of the world’s remaining rainforests (Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), have signed an agreement to work together to end deforestation and issue joint proposals for climate finance.
Adaptation: Plants are using their epigenetic memories to adapt to climate change as best they can, as are these 53 species of birds.
Strengthening wind: The world’s wind power supply grew 13% y-o-y in the first half of 2022 and is expected to see record-breaking growth for the year.
Alibaba sees flat sales performance during the major annual shopping event in China, Singles’ Day. [link] Compare to just two years ago when the giant saw a sales rise of over 90% y-o-y during the holiday. [link]
Masayoshi Son owes $4.7bn to SoftBank. [link]
Permanent daylight savings time would save $1.2bn in car accidents in the US alone. [link]
By 2035 charging stops for electric trucks will require 19MW, enough to power a small town. [link]
India’s space startup Skyroot launched the nation’s first private rocket into space. Indian space startups have raised $108.52 million in 2022 alone. [link]
Short morsels to appear smart while decoding speech from the cerebral cortex
🥩A lab-grown meat startup got FDA approval, but the company still needs to figure out how to make enough of the stuff.
🚁Robinson R44 is the first electric helicopter to go from one city to another.
🎓Myopia is found to be linked to five genetic variants… And to be more common amongst the university-educated.
🚩Intel unveiled FakeCatcher, a real-time deepfake detector with (allegedly) 96% effectiveness. (Deepfakes will be universal, so a 4% failure rate is problematic.)
As we approach the 400th (!!) issue of the newsletter, we’re experimenting with some new formats. Tell us what you think!
What you’re up to – notes from EV readers
Claudia Chwalisz was involved in the creation of the world’s first permanent Citizen’s Assembly on Climate in the Brussels-Capital Region. Congrats!
Vessela Ignatova wrote an article about how strategy and business operations can boost the OKR process.
Diana Wu David wrote a fantastical story imagining the possibilities of the future of work.
Aisling Carlson and her team at Diversity VC have published a report exploring the role of DEI mandates at the LP and GP level, and their impact on capital allocation to founders.
Gianni Giacomelli published the 2030 Futures report, which features 45+ hypothetical stories illustrating how you can design new systems with Augmented Collective Intelligence.
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.)
For those who wish to read Diane Wu David's story (rather than listen to it; I have found I do not have the attention span to take in reading via audio), from the SoundCloud link's description, the transcript of the story can be found here: https://rmitforward.notion.site/rmitforward/Story-from-the-Future-of-Work-Diana-Wu-David-4f498340d7554bcd931ed180de7ddc54