New Week Same Humans #21

Your AI afterlife is closer than you think. An aerobics teacher in Myanmar broadcasts the ultimate livestream. Plus more news and analysis from this week.

Welcome to the Wednesday update from New World Same Humans, a newsletter on trends, technology, and society by David Mattin.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet subscribed, then join 14,000+ curious souls on a journey to build a better shared future 🚀🔮

💡 This week’s Sunday instalment saw our shared future through the lens of Three Things that are Abundant and Three Things that are Scarce.💡

This week, virtual humans continue their march across our shared future.

Meanwhile, an aerobics teacher in Myanmar livestreams a class you won’t believe. And how an Ohio-based startup are edging us towards the mirrorworld.

Plus, stock trading app Robinhood hope the Super Bowl can save their brand in the wake of the GameStop crisis.

Let’s go!

🤖 Ready for your AI afterlife?

South Korean broadcaster SBS used an AI system called Singing Voice Synthesis (SVS) to recreate voice of the legendary folk singer Kim Kwang-seok.

SVS was was exposed to 20 of Kim’s songs; a further 700 folk songs were used to train the AI to emulate his style. The results were unveiled this week on the SBS music reality show Competition of the Century: AI vs Human.

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to Kim’s ouevre. But from where I’m listening: this AI sounds a whole lot like him. What’s more, fans agree. CNN reported superfan Kim Jou-yeon’s reaction: ‘The recovered voice sounds…as if Kim recorded it alive.’

Meanwhile, Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz has launched a startup, Sun and Thunder, dedicated to virtual humans. Abovitz says the new company will build ‘synthetic beings’ and use them to tell stories inside virtual worlds.

⚡ NWSH Take: The rise of virtual humans is colliding with an eternal human obsession: our quest for immortality. Via recorded sound and vision we’re already accustomed to the reanimation of people who’ve died. But now it’s clear that AI will extend that, so that cultural figures can live a kind of extended, ghostly afterlife. Dead singers will sing new hits; dead writers will produce new books; will an AI Stanley Kubrick direct the 101st Star Wars reboot in 2062? // Living cultural figures will see AI incarnations as a way to scale themselves; spiritual guru Deepak Chopra launched his last year. // Trends that start among the cultural elite tend to trickle down. AI afterlives won’t be only for celebrities. One signal? Microsoft is developing chatbot tech intended to digitally reincarnate ordinary people.

🏃 The aerobics class at the End of History

An aerobics instructor unwittingly livestreamed this week’s military coup in Myanmar.

What? Just read the tweet:

I have no words (which is highly unusual).

Okay, I do have some words. It’s been said before, but reality has outrun our ability to represent it. It’s impossible to imagine a novel, film, or TV show that captures the essential weirdness of 2021 in the way this video does. A livestreamed exercise class. The mask. The full-scale military coup that’s happening. Technology, the pandemic, the rise and fall of democracy! It’s all too much.

But if you want even more, this slowed down version of the video, set to Only Time by Enya, is perfect. Truly the Tweet at the End of History.

👋 NWSH comes to Clubhouse this Friday

This was promised; now it will be delivered!

This Friday I’ll be joined by my co-host Monique van Dusseldorp – and an amazing guest panel – for the first ever New World Same Humans event on the audio social network Clubhouse.

On the panel will be the trend watcher and social entrepreneur Henry Coutinho-Mason, work-life integration expert Nick deWilde, social media trends expert and In Bed With Social writer Marie Dollé, and human-centred technology leader Greg Sherwin.

We’ll be talking the week in tech, trends and our shared future; expect big opinions, insights, debate and more! If you’re on Clubhouse, tune in on Friday at 10am EST, 4pm CET.

And if you’d like to attend but need an invite to the app then hit me up in the NWSH Slack; I have a few spare.

🌐 Building the mirrorworld

Online search works for text and images. Shazam will let you search based on a fragment of music. But what if you’re holding a physical object in your hands and you want to know all about it? How do you search that?

US-based startup Physna launched a platform called Thangs in August 2020. Users upload a model, image, or 3D data, and the AI-fuelled search engine surfaces all duplicate and similar objects. The uses right now are mainly industrial: that includes helping users to find out when someone has ripped off one of their physical products.

The startup has just raised $20 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital.

⚡ NWSH Take: Physna is one chapter in a far broader story: the ongoing blurring of the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. // The technology at work here is spatial computing: that’s when computers model, interact with, and manipulate objects in the real world. It’s about to have a moment. // The new iPhone 12 comes with Lidar, which bounces lasers off the objects around it to build a model of the physical world. Couple that with a search engine such as Physna, and anyone will be able to scan an object and then search it. What is this strange bolt, and where does it go in my car engine? You’ll be able to know, instantly. // The end game here? The boundaries between digital and physical disappear. Every place and object in the physical world is mapped digitally, and we see the emergence the mirrorworld that tech guru Kevin Kelly has written about finally emerges.

🗓️ Also this week

💸 Stock trading app Robinhood hopes a Super Bowl ad will repair its brand in the wake of the GameStop scandal. The app shut down trades on GameStop last week when thousands of independent investors collaborated to push up the retailer’s share price. It’s currently rated one star in the Google Play store.

🐜 Jack Ma’s Ant Financial has reached a deal with the Chinese government that will see it regulated in a way similar to banks. Ant’s planned IPO was halted by regulators in November; Ma subsequently fell out of public view.

🏟️ Telecoms giant Verizon have built the first sports stadium inside Fortnite to celebrate this year’s Super Bowl. Users can check in and interact with pro-gamers and NFL players.

👊 In a high-profile interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the big social platforms ‘manipulate people’s behaviour’. It’s not the first time Cook has put a smackdown on Facebook, but these comments are his most robust yet.

⚙️ South Korea, Singapore, and Switzerland lead the world in innovation according to the latest Bloomberg Innovation Index. The US has fallen out of the top ten.

🧑‍🚀 Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO to focus on his space project Blue Origin. You already knew that, but have you considered all the ways it’s about to go down between Jeff and Elon? Get ready for billionaire vs billionaire: space edition.

🔋 The UK is emitting far less carbon dioxide than it used to. Latest data from the Office for National Statistics show greenhouse gas emissions fell by 44% between 1990 and 2019.

🌐 Russia’s former president Dmitry Medvedev said the country is ‘legally and technologically’ ready to disconnect from the global web. NWSH #25 looked at the emergence of the splinternet.

🌱 Some journalists said that ‘scientists had taught spinach to send emails’. The key? Nanotechnology that turns leaves into sensors. Does that count as ‘sending an email?’ Look, I get it; we all love a killer headline.

🧑‍💻 This startup wants you to rent a garden office from your neighbour. Irish startup Nooka make tiny shed-offices that customers can lease and use themselves or rent out.

🌍 Humans of Earth

Key metrics to help you keep track of Project Human.

🙋‍♀️ Global population: 7,843,503,712
🌊 Earths currently needed: 1.7773431638

💉 Global population vaccinated: 0.15%

🗓️ 2021 progress bar: 9% complete

📖 On this day: On 3rd February 1966 the Soviet Union's Luna 9 becomes the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon.

The day after tomorrow

Thanks for reading this week.

The Myanmar aerobics video might be this week’s most eye-catching story. But it’s the emergence of the digital-physical mirrorworld that will really do wild things to our shared future.

NWSH will be tracking this revolution as it unfolds. In the meantime, there’s one thing you can do inside virtual space that will help: share!

Our community becomes smarter, more creative, and more useful as it becomes larger and more diverse. To help, why not take a second to forward this email to one person – a friend, relative, or colleague – who’d also enjoy it? Or share New World Same Humans across one of your social networks, and let others know why you think it’s worth their time.

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Your membership of this community is valued. Hope to see you in Clubhouse on Friday! Until then, be well,


P.S Thanks to Monique van Dusseldorp for additional research and analysis.

David Mattin is the founder of the Strategy and Futures Research Unit. He sits on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Consumption.