New Week Same Humans #57

This Silicon Valley startup wants to build a new city in the Mediterranean. Hackers steal the government ID of every citizen in Argentina. Plus more news and analysis from this week.

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

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💡 In this week’s Sunday note I wrote about Amazon, the Moscow metro, and the state vs Big Tech. Go here to read The State of Us.💡

This week, a Silicon Valley collective says it wants to build a new city in the Mediterranean; and it has a cunning plan on how to fund it.

Also, Tesla launch an innovative new data-fuelled insurance service.

Plus a note on my consultancy, the Strategy and Futures Research Unit.

Let’s go!

🏙️ City of Dreams

This week, two NWSH obsessions collide.

Back in April I wrote Charter City Dreams, a note on the charter city movement. Its proponents believe that life for millions in the 21st-century can be transformed by the creation of new cities that lie outside the control of any nation state.

Enter Praxis, a startup with a bold plan:

Here’s where it gets even more interesting.

Praxis founder Dryden Brown says he wants to fund the creation of giant monuments inside the city via the sale of NFT artworks that depict those monuments. To be clear, the plan: design the statues, mint the images as NFTs, sell those NFTs for millions, and then use that money to build the statues for real. When the statues exist in the world – and are internationally famous – the NFTs will be worth a fortune.

As I said: the plan is bold.

Is this an inspiring vision of a new City on the Hill? Or a manic neo-utopian Valley fantasy? Either way, it’s worth thinking about:

⚡ NWSH Take: Praxis appears to be a tiny organisation; there’s no indication that any of this is about to happen. Still, its plan for a new city is a fascinating signal of some powerful shifts. // First, the Charter City movement is growing in momentum. Alongside Praxis, take a look at US retail billionaire Marc Lore’s plan to build a new city, Telosa, on an empty tract of American desert. // Second, NFTs are a new kind of asset, and their implications are not yet fully understood. Sure, the Praxis city is a wild scheme. But admit it: the funding model is pretty interesting. Will we see physical objects – products, artworks, buildings – funded by the pre-sale of NFT depictions? // As for inspiring or mad? The debate will rage. But techno-philosopher Balaji Srinivasan, himself a proponent of decentralised cities in the cloud, loves the Praxis idea.

🚀 2022 is calling

A brief interlude; some news!

Last year I launched a consultancy called the Strategy and Futures Research Unit. My vision was to bring the trends and insights developed here in this newsletter to clients all over the world. And to put them to use: to generate breakthrough innovation ideas, transform internal cultures, and set new strategic directions.

Since then, SFRU has worked closely with a handful of amazing organisations. A financial services giant, an on-demand mobility brand, and an iconic travel platform among them.

Now, 2022 is calling. In the coming days, I’ll be sending a series of emails on what SFRU can do to help you and your team get ready to thrive: think trend presentations and ideation workshops, bespoke trend reports, and strategic counsel. If you’d like to receive those emails, just sign up to the SFRU list. You’ll also receive our landmark 2022 Trend Briefing later this year!

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We’re living at a special time. It means a new chance to build things – products, services, campaigns and experiences – that make an impact. So let’s go!

And if you want to kickstart a conversation right away, just hit reply to this email.

🌐 Life, the dataverse, and everything

This week, three stories offer an insight into the emerging dataverse.

Tesla announced plans for a new insurance service, which will use real-time driver behaviour data – think speed, braking patterns, following distance – to calculate the user’s monthly premium.

The service is currently available only to drivers in Texas. Tesla also operates an insurance service in California, but state rules currently don’t allow use of driver data.

Meanwhile, trouble in Argentina. A hacker breached the government’s national ID database, and stole ID card details for the entire population. Yes, everyone. Including Lionel Messi, and president Alberto Fernández. The data is now being offered for sale on the dark web.

Think it couldn’t happen where you are?

Maybe not. But take a look at what this Amazon Echo user discovered when she requested access to all the data Amazon have ever collected on her. The cache includes 3,500 short audio clips, and all the contacts from her phone, to which she ‘doesn’t remember granting access.’

⚡ NWSH Take: In these three stories, so much of the dataverse. Tesla’s new service uses real-time data to transform the underlying model for car insurance, and deliver lower prices to safe drivers. Meanwhile, Argentina faces the kind of data privacy Armageddon Event I wrote about in New Week #55, in the wake of this month’s massive Twitch hack. And those of us in the Global North are reminded that it’s Jeff Bezos, and not government, who is often watching us most closely. // In this week’s Sunday note, I took data privacy as a jumping off point for a meditation on the collision between the state and Big Tech. We’re at the start of a process via which national governments attempt to draw new lines around the power of technology. But for every citizen complaining this platform invades my privacy, policy makers will find another leaping at the value, convenience, and personalisation that data makes possible. The road to a settlement will be long, and full of conflict; but we can get there.

🐷 Animal spirits

US surgeons have successfully connected a pig’s kidney to a human, and watched that kidney begin to work.

The researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School said the operation was ‘a significant step’ towards a future in which organ transplants from animals are a clinical reality.

The idea isn’t new. And pigs have always been seen as an ideal candidate. But in past transplant attempts, a sugar in pig cells that is foreign to the human body has caused immediate rejection.

This time, researchers gene-edited the pig to eliminate that sugar. When they temporarily connected the kidney to a deceased woman’s body, ‘it had absolutely normal function,’ according to research leader Dr Robert Montgomery.

⚡ NWSH Take: This work is yet another signal of the multiple revolutions that await via gene editing. Want more? Last month, the FDA gave approval to a first trial of a CRISPR gene-edited treatment for HIV. Meanwhile, the world’s first CRISPR-edited food went on sale in Japan; tomatoes modified to contain more of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is associated with reduced stress and better sleep. // The second issue here, though: ethics. In a world in which many are shunning meat for ethical as well as environmental reasons, will there be mainstream acceptance of the idea that we raise animals to be harvested for organs? In the end, the debate on meat and on human organs may be brought to an end via the emergence of our ability to grow both in the lab.

🗓️ Also this week

🌘 NASA wants to put a 4G mobile network on the moon. Nokia has been awarded a $14 million contract to build it. The plans are part of NASA’s project Artemis, which aims to put astronauts back on the moon by 2028.

🍏 Apple has fired Janneke Parrish, the leader of the #AppleToo movement. In People in Glass Boxes I wrote about the transparency revolution sweeping through Apple, which has seen staff criticise the company over pay and internal culture.

🖼️ Vienna’s iconic museums are are opening accounts on OnlyFans. The curators behind the move say traditional social platforms keep deleting posts on their most famous artworks because they feature nudity.

☀️ The Netherlands is on track to phase out coal for power generation by 2030. That’s according to a new report by analysts GlobalData.

💸 Facebook launched its new digital wallet, Novi. The wallet is currently only available to a few users in the US and Guatemala, and there’s no sign of the platform’s cryptocurrency, Diem. Meanwhile, reports suggest The Zuck is about to enact a rebrand of his company.

🥪 The UK is trialling a facial recognition system to collect lunch money from school pupils. The nine participating schools say that it means faster and more hygienic payment. On Sunday I wrote about Bezosism as a total social system; this is what I was talking about.

🇨🇳 China denied reports that it tested a hypersonic nuclear-capable missile in the summer. A Financial Times report said the missile flew into low orbit, sparking concern in Washington.

🌊 A vast net system cleared 29,000kg of plastic from the Pacific Ocean. The Ocean Cleanup hailed the success of their system, dubbed Jenny, as proof they can clear the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

🌍 Humans of Earth

Key metrics to help you keep track of Project Human.

🙋 Global population: 7,901,147,686
🌊 Earths currently needed: 1.7950622633

💉 Global population vaccinated: 36.4%

🗓️ 2021 progress bar: 80% complete

📖 On this day: On 20 October 1947 the House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into alleged communists in Hollywood.

Bright Lights

Thanks for reading this week.

Cities are the most effective engines for human advancement that we’ve ever created. No wonder, then, that in the 21st-century so many are dreaming of a new City of Shining Lights.

New World Same Humans will keep watching, and thinking about where these dreams may lead.

If that mission resonates with you, there’s one thing you can do to help: share!

Now you’ve reached the end of this week’s instalment, why not forward the email to someone who’d also enjoy it? Or share it across one of your social networks, with a note on why you found it valuable. Remember: the larger and more diverse the NWSH community becomes, the better for all of us.

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I’ll be back this Sunday. Until then, be well,


P.S Huge thanks to Nikki Ritmeijer for the illustration at the top of this email. And 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.