Off
View Post
Technology Guest Speaker Wellington “Emerging tech: opportunities for Aotearoa in 2021 with Ben Reid” at the Creative HQ Event Wed 14th Apr 2021

Technology Guest Speaker Wellington “Emerging tech: opportunities for Aotearoa in 2021 with Ben Reid” at the Creative HQ Event Wed 14th Apr 2021

I have an upcoming speaking event in Wellington Creative HQ called “Emerging tech – opportunities for Aotearoa in 2021 with Ben Reid”. You will find us at the Creative HQ, Event Hub on Wednesday the 14th of April. I would love to see you there. I will endeavour to upload a few photos and notes after the event.

Date: Wed 14th Apr 2021, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm NZST

Location: Creative HQ, Event Hub, 7 Dixon Street, Level 2, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

Looking for a guest speaker? Hire me for your next event.

Off
View Post
Technology Guest Speaker in Australia on Tech Load with Sandra Spencer on Melbourne’s 88.3 Southern FM – 24 February 2021

Technology Guest Speaker in Australia on Tech Load with Sandra Spencer on Melbourne’s 88.3 Southern FM – 24 February 2021

I had the pleasure of appearing for a second time as a technology guest speaker in Australia on the Tech Load radio show speaking with Sandra Spencer. We talked about the new privacy and news laws, deep fakes and all things technology.

What is Tech Load?

Sandra presents tech headlines, interviews, music and innovators on Melbourne community radio. 

Listen to the show: Guest speaker on Tech Load with Sandra Spencer on Melbourne’s 88.3 Southern FM which aired Wednesday 24 February 2021 6pm-7pm

Need a speaker for your next event?

Looking for a guest speaker? Learn more about my keynote and guest speaking services

Off
View Post
Digital Guest Speaker “Selecting the right platforms and tech” at the NZTE Digitally Speaking series Thursday 25th February 2021:

Digital Guest Speaker “Selecting the right platforms and tech” at the NZTE Digitally Speaking series Thursday 25th February 2021:

I had the pleasure of speaking at the NZTE Digitally Speaking series around Technology and Digital Platforms.

UPCOMING SPEAKING APPEARANCES:

DATE: 25th February 2021

Date: Thursday 25 February 2021, 10am to 12.30pm

WHERE: Online or in-studio (Auckland only)

EVENT: NZTE Digitally Speaking series

EVENT DESCRIPTION: The Digitally Speaking event series lets you learn from global leaders in digital commerce and transformation, ask questions and network with other businesses and compare notes on your digital successes and challenges.

SPEAKING TOPIC: Selecting the right platforms and tech

*photo credit:

Need a speaker for your next event?

Looking for a guest speaker? Learn more about my keynote and guest speaking services

Off
View Post
Guest Speaker: “Emerging Digital Marketing Technology Trends 2021” at the NZ Tech Marketers conference: Wednesday 30 June 2021

Guest Speaker: “Emerging Digital Marketing Technology Trends 2021” at the NZ Tech Marketers conference: Wednesday 30 June 2021

UPCOMING SPEAKING APPEARANCES:

I am thrilled to be a keynote speaker and the upcoming Tech Marketers Group Conference, Just One Conference in Auckland. I would love to see you there. You can find out more about this event below

DATE: Wednesday 30 June 2021

EVENT: Tech Marketers Group Conference #TMG2021 

EVENT DESCRIPTION: Join leading marketers from around the country for a fantastic full-day conference focused on the challenges and opportunities faced by marketers in the tech sector. The Tech Marketers Group Conference, Just One Conference, happening on Wednesday 30 June 2021 at Te Iringa (The Wave Room), AUT, Auckland. 

KEYNOTE SPEAKING TOPIC: Emerging Digital Marketing Technology Trends 2021

*photo credit: Tech Marketers Group Conference

Need a speaker for your next event?

Looking for a guest speaker? Learn more about my keynote and guest speaking services

Off
View Post
Memia 2020 wrapup: Top 10 themes from a year of tumultuous change🌊💥🤯

Memia 2020 wrapup: Top 10 themes from a year of tumultuous change🌊💥🤯

Kia ora,

As 2020 hurtles towards its overdue conclusion, here’s a wrapup of the highlights and overarching themes from 46 ⚗️emoji-filled🌏 Memia newsletter posts this year.

An underlying thesis?

Writing the weekly Memia newsletter is mostly an exercise in continuous discovery, drinking from a firehose of change trying to figure out what’s actually going on…and what might happen next. If an underlying thesis has emerged for Memia’s writing over the course of 2020, it goes something like this:

  • Technology changes the world: Rapidly advancing technology is among the main drivers of modern global change – on individual, societal, political and economic levels.
  • Try to keep up: technology is moving so fast you need to run just to stay still.
  • New frameworks needed: Legacy conceptual frameworks of society, politics and economics struggle to accommodate the potential of new technologies to transform, or provide a working model of how technology effects change.
  • Techno-optimism warranted*: In many cases new technology itself provides opportunities to address myriad challenges facing humanity – but, for whatever reasons, most commentary generally lacks imagination as to what is possible…and instead tends to focus on negative outcomes/preserving the status quo.

(*…Yes obviously all new technology comes with risks and dangers…but these get enough airtime already *IMO*…so Memia’s “regular weekly scan of emerging tech and the unfolding future” mostly takes an optimistic spin, imagining the positive possible.)

2020: Top ten themes from a year of tumultuous change

Below my roundup of the year:

  1. 🦠The pandemic and a new age of scientific enlightenment
  2. 🌊Climate change: the next tsunami
  3. 💸Financial system externalities finally visible
  4. 🗳️Fragile but resilient democracy
  5. 📦Clogged globalisation driving localised resilience
  6. 👓Work from (virtually) anywhere
  7. 💡Scientific discovery and technological innovation
  8. 🌌Humanity’s place in the cosmos
  9. 🌏Aotearoa’s changing place in the world
  10. 💎Hidden gems everywhere

Head over to the newsletter to read the full article

Off
View Post
DEC 2020: Keynote Speaker at NZ Debt Capital Markets Summit 2020 in Auckland

DEC 2020: Keynote Speaker at NZ Debt Capital Markets Summit 2020 in Auckland

Ben delivered a keynote presentation on “Artificial Intelligence: 2021 and beyond” and took part in an on-stage fireside chat with New Zealand Government Digital advisor Rachel Kelly at the Kanganews NZ Debt Capital Markets Summit 2020 in Auckland in December 2020 – great to connect with delegates at one of the few in-person conferences happening around the world!

For more information about booking technology futurist speaker Ben Reid to speak at your (virtual) conference, company event or podcast, see Ben Reid – Keynote Speaker.

Need a speaker for your next event?

For more information about booking technology futurist speaker Ben Reid to speak at your (virtual) conference, company event or podcast, see Ben Reid – Keynote Speaker.

Off
View Post
Guest speaker on Tech Load with Sandra Spencer on Melbourne’s 88.3 Southern FM

Guest speaker on Tech Load with Sandra Spencer on Melbourne’s 88.3 Southern FM

I had the pleasure of speaking with Sandra Spencer on her show Tech Load. Sandra presents tech headlines, interviews, music and innovators on Melbourne community radio. Listen to the show: Guest speaker on Tech Load with Sandra Spencer on Melbourne’s 88.3 Southern FM which aired Wednesday 25 November 2020 6pm-7pm
https://www.youtube.com/embed/4dcFOHqo1Z8
Off
View Post
Post-Covid-19 – some “axes of uncertainty” scenarios for New Zealand Inc.

Post-Covid-19 – some “axes of uncertainty” scenarios for New Zealand Inc.

Searching for opportunities on the other side of the pandemic response

It’s now early April 2020 and New Zealand is nearly two weeks into Level 4 lockdown in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Internationally it is now acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic has created an economic crisis “like no other” — one that is “way worse” than the 2008 global financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund. Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of IMF said:

“Never in the history of IMF have we witnessed the world economy come to a standstill.”

Large parts of the New Zealand economy have indeed effectively been shut down – or more generously “put into hibernation” – by the massive, unprecedented (that word again) restrictions on movement and commercial activity. Only essential businesses and those who are able to continue operating with staff working from home are permitted to continue trading. Companies operating in sectors such as tourism, air transport, hospitality and overseas education are effectively now without revenue for the foreseeable future and will likely have to close.

Right now, the initial Level 4 lockdown is expected to go on for at least 2 more weeks. But modelling from Te Pūnaha Matatini (TPM) data science researchers, Suppression and mitigation strategies for control of COVID-19 in New Zealand, illustrates the following two mitigation scenarios where “high control” (=lockdown) continues intermittently either for 6 months until the virus races uncontrolled through the population, or for 2+ years until “herd immunity” is reached, assuming there is no vaccine available before then.

Source: Te Pūnaha MatatiniSuppression and mitigation strategies for control of COVID-19 in New Zealand

Meanwhile, there are voices raising questions about how sustainable the government’s “go hard and go early” approach to suppressing – or indeed eliminating – the virus in Aotearoa can be, together with questions surrounding the balancing of broader concerns – for example intergenerational equity, economic wellbeing, other health conditions and mental health of those affected by the longer term consequences of total economic wipeout.

There is huge uncertainty – perhaps more than at any time in New Zealand history. So in among this dense fog of unknowability, is it even possible to look out and model what Post-Covid-19 New Zealand might look like in a way that can help businesses adapt, survive and, ultimately, thrive?

Near-term scenario modeling

Coronavirus is the threat no-one saw coming:

“In their scenario planning, if they do scenario planning, I would doubt [businesses] would think about the world being shut down, borders being closed, everyone being in their houses”

– Wendy Kerr, Director, Auckland University’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Here we are now, two weeks in and still at the very beginning of the pandemic response. Can we start constructing some scenarios to help with planning from here?

I have taken a first cut at exploring some of the main areas of uncertainty for the New Zealand context and ended up categorising them into “When”, “How much” and “Yes/no” questions, together with some initial stabs in the dark about high and low boundaries:

By no means exhaustive, but you get the drift. From these (quite specific) questions, it’s possible to choose a selection and sketch out some near-term scenarios that might form a backdrop to business planning – for example, two extremes:

However, being honest, there’s not a lot of opportunity apparent in any of these near-term scenarios – basically it’s going to be a grim game of cost-shedding and survival for most existing businesses during the lockdown and subsequent recession. And high levels of unemployment – how high depends on how rapidly the government mobilises its stimulus spending.

Axes of uncertainty

Quantitative Futurist Amy Webb of the Future Today Institute uses a technique called Axes of Uncertainty to explore potential longer term scenarios more broadly and use these to ensure more preparedness for the future. Axes can be External or Internal to an organisation. External Uncertainties can be broken into four categories: Economic, Social, Technological and Regulatory/Politics/Activism:

Credit: Amy Webb, Future Today Institute

Here are a few interesting (to me) New Zealand-relevant axes to consider, there are many others – feel free to suggest some more.

From my technologically-inquisitive perspective, there may be some areas for NZ businesses to investigate here. Firstly, for background, looking at our supply chains for import, here are some very enlightening visualisations from the excellent Observatory of Economic Complexity at MIT Media Lab:

(What is “Broadcasting Equipment”, anyone ???)

Below are just four scenario maps I’ve worked up using Amy Webb’s technique, with “Opportunity” and “Risk” seen from the (admittedly rather lofty and subjective) perspective of “NZ Inc”. Some nuggets of opportunity starting to appear.

(FWIW you can substitute “NZ” for pretty much any small economy that needs to trade outside its borders for any of these.)

Next steps?

Other than being an interesting diversion for a Sunday afternoon in Lockdown 😇, what else is this analysis useful for? The suggested final step in this process is: Find your action. Each of the scenarios above might apply to you or your organisation in varying ways, or not at all. Try using the technique yourself within your organisational context and see whether you come up with any previously unseen opportunities that could make the difference between surviving Covid-19 – and thriving afterwards.

Comments, feedback? Get in touch: ben.reid@memia.com

Off

Think // Ahead: New Memia newsletter for the 2020s

Sign up for Memia’s new email newsletter by me, Ben Reid at https://memia.substack.com

This is my regular digest of new developments at the edge of technology change for the 2020s – thinking ahead about the implications for individuals, businesses and society as a whole. I take a global perspective but with a particular focus on what’s happening in my corner of the world: Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Check out the latest posts:

Off
View Post
Redistributive sovereign cryptocurrency – an alternative to a “wealth tax”?

Redistributive sovereign cryptocurrency – an alternative to a “wealth tax”?

Can wealth redistribution be designed into money to reduce economic inequality?

Summary

Economic inequality is increasing around the world, with no signs of changing direction. Economist Thomas Piketty asserts that inequality is a fundamental “feature” of capitalism which requires state intervention to address – stoking heated political debates on introducing new “wealth taxes” around the world. Yet administering tax and benefit systems are a costly overhead for governments – introducing another tax in the traditional manner would create yet more complex and costly state machinery to collect and redistribute the proceeds.

What if instead the machinery of wealth redistribution was built into the monetary system itself? New sovereign digital (crypto-)currencies promise new monetary policy tools which could make the redistribution of income and wealth into a core function of money rather than the state – thus enabling central banks to simply target an “inequality rate” in much the same way as an inflation band or unemployment rate – and reducing the overhead of tax collection and distribution on governments around the world.

Background

Sovereign governments and central banks around the world are beginning to investigate sovereign digital currency instruments. China has stated that its sovereign cryptocurrency is “ready for launch”. The tiny Marshall Islands have announced a plan to create their own “SOV” cryptocurrency which will be legal tender when (if…) it is launched. Meanwhile Estonia’s ambitions for a state-backed cryptocurrency were dashed by the European Central Bank and other developed economy central banks including New Zealand and Australia have ruled out issuing digital currencies any time soon.

(And as Western economies procrastinate, Facebook has initiated the Libra consortium to launch a global cryptocurrency backed by traditional financial assets and independent of any sovereign government.)

Digital currency issued by central banks would enable national treasuries to make use of all the technological advantages of cryptocurrencies, but without ceding control to nationless, decentralized infrastructure such as Bitcoin, Ether and others. A sovereign digital-/crypto-currency – including a universal transaction ledger – promises to deliver completely new financial infrastructure for all users of money: real-time data collection, low transaction costs, bookkeeping, traceability not to mention the implementation of monetary policy. The potential efficiencies of scale and enhanced functionality of a unified national ledger system are significant.

(It should also be pointed out that introducing state-operated financial infrastructure would require increased oversight and controls – and may be perceived to infringe even further upon individual privacy and human rights than current “anti-money-laundering” / ”financial surveillance” regimes do. This post does not explore the social and regulatory implications further, other than acknowledging their fundamental importance.)

Addressing the inequality challenge

Inequality among the world’s population can take many forms: economic, health, lifespan to name a few commonly invoked dimensions. (Recent efforts have framed the problem as one of improving “wellbeing” for populations as a whole, targeting reductions in inequality across a range of socioeconomic measures. In particular in New Zealand where a basket of non-financial wellbeing measurements now underpin the annual government budgeting process.)

By many measures, economic inequality is increasing around the world. Income inequality within OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century: the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago. Even more startling statistics surround wealth inequality: globally, the richest 1% population own 45% of the world’s wealth.  In the US in 2018, the richest three American men — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — held combined fortunes worth more than the total wealth of the poorest half of Americans.

Income and wealth redistribution – the old way

Through taxation, governments around the world engage in income and (to a lesser degree) wealth redistribution to attempt to reduce inequality. Traditional solutions are based upon collection of income taxes and then a range of means-tested benefit distributions. An analysis of all OECD countries’ redistributive policies shows that taxes and transfers redistribute income across all deciles, thereby reducing inequality to some degree. More recently there has been increased interest in novel mechanisms such as (universal) basic income (UBI) as a more effective and simpler redistributive mechanism.

In reality, the bureaucratic machinery of income redistribution places a significant cost on the state. For example, in New Zealand, the Ministry of Social Development manages over NZ$26 billion of government expenditure, including over NZ$14.5Bn on superannuation (pension) payments and NZ$6.5Bn on benefits and assistance. (Social security and welfare spending makes up a total of NZ$33Bn – nearly 30% of total government spending).

French economist Thomas Piketty’s widely discussed 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century examines the evidence that economic inequality is worsening and proposes taxing wealth as a solution. The central thesis of the book is that inequality is a “feature” of capitalism, and can only be reversed through state intervention.

In line with this, recent political discourse around inequality is starting to turn towards explicitly taxing wealth – US Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposes an “ultra-millionaire tax” based upon 2% of household net worth above US$50 million. Countries including Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands and Argentina all have some form of wealth tax already in place.

Functions of a central bank

In many countries, governance and management of monetary policy is devolved to a central bank (for example the Federal Reserve in the US, European Central Bank in the Euro Area, the Bank of England in the UK). Central banks generally have five main functions:

  1. Issuer of currency in circulation (notes and coins)
  2. Lender of last resort to banks
  3. Lender of last resort to government
  4. Ensure the stability of the banking system
  5. Set monetary policy, mainly through the control of interest rates.

While central banks in most developed nations are independent institutions and protected from political interference, monetary policy may be still be set to achieve certain government targets, in particular:

  • Keep price inflation within a certain target band
  • Economic growth targets
  • Unemployment targets

All quite straightforward, at least until the system crashes like in the GFC of 2008 when liquidity crises have required more unconventional monetary policy levers such as quantitative easing – “creating money” and using this money to buy bonds with the aim of reducing interest rates and boosting bank lending.

Sovereign cryptocurrencies – enabling new digital monetary policy levers

Enter sovereign digital-/ crypto-currencies.

Bitcoin, as the original, decentralised and critical mass cryptocurrency relies upon game theory to balance supply and demand for new coins. An energy-intensive “mining” process incrementally releases new bitcoin into circulation, with a theoretical maximum of 21 million bitcoins ever to exist. New bitcoins are created roughly every ten minutes and the rate at which they are generated drops by half about every four years until all will be in circulation. Pseudonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto effectively set a monetary policy based on artificial scarcity at Bitcoin’s inception.

The lack of flexibility in Bitcoin’s algorithm to massage the money supply up or down (eg to support central bank activities such as quantitative easing) is a criticism of Bitcoin’s infrastructure. Critics argue that a global currency system based upon Bitcoin (or similar) cryptocurrencies would be incredibly brittle in the face of global financial crises.

For this reason, proponents of sovereign digital-/crypto-currencies argue in favour of new digital money supply which is governed and regulated through more traditional techniques – for example through the central bank deciding to issue more or less currency into circulation, or adjusting the interest rate paid to (extracted from) holders of currency.

So at the very least, monetary policy functions of sovereign cryptos echo those of fiat currencies world wide:

  • Controlling money supply
  • Setting interest rates

But by virtue of the new financial infrastructure they provide, sovereign cryptos potentially provide a raft of new functionality. For example, central banks could manage lending directly to businesses and individuals, rather than only to commercial banks – thus levelling the playing field and minimising rent taking by commercial banks adding lucrative interest rate margins for little risk.

When considering the inequality question, two other potential functions stand out in particular:

  • Automatic, near-zero-cost redistribution of wealth
  • Automatic, near-zero-cost redistribution of income

New digital monetary policy function #1: wealth redistribution

As we’ve seen:

  • Economic inequality is one of the critical issues of our time, and
  • State intervention through wealth taxes are considered the imminent way to address this.

What if the state function of tax collection and wealth redistribution could instead be delegated to central banks as a monetary policy lever? In the same way as some governments set unemployment targets for their central banks, what if they set “wealth inequality targets”?

Furthermore, what if sovereign digital currency infrastructure could replace much of the bureaucracy of wealth tax collection and redistribution with an automatic algorithm which more evenly distributes wealth across the currency system?

For example, to implement Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax – for each “household” in the universal ledger (sum up all the “household wallets”), if the total value of all currency holdings adds up to more than $50 million, remove an annualised 2% from those wallets and redistribute across the rest of the ledger according to “household” wealth. Running the redistributive algorithm across all accounts at a regular frequency (daily? hourly?) would increase precision and fairness.

It sounds simple and elegant – as with the current taxation system, this would need robust legislation to unambiguously define a “household” and map it to the correct wallets on the ledger. More importantly, however, the redistribution would only cover the small portion of total household wealth which is held in currency.

So, as currently, the tax system would still be needed to calculate all non-currency household assets and map these to the household calculation on the ledger as well. But arguably this automated redistribution infrastructure could be maintained at a fraction of the billions of dollars cost currently spent on state bureaucracies dedicated to tax collection and social benefit distribution.)

(The more fundamental question is whether the rich would choose to hold any of their wealth in such a redistributive currency at all… but then, how is this different to negative interest rates?)

New digital monetary policy function #2: income redistribution

In a similar way to wealth, income redistribution could be automated using sovereign digital currency infrastructure, removing the need for much of the current state infrastructure required for tax collection and redistribution. This may also have the added benefit of unburdening private enterprises from their undesired role as payroll tax collector…

The government of the day sets a clearly defined and legislated  “income equality target” which is then delegated to the central bank to implement as monetary policy.

In practice, each wallet on the ledger participates in many taxable / non-taxable income transactions. Periodically (each day, hour…?), all applicable income transactions would have the relevant taxable amount automatically debited from all wallets on the ledger and automatically redistributed to low-income wallets according to an algorithm optimised for the target set by government.

It seems intuitive that income redistribution would be an easier challenge than for wealth since almost all income transactions are already denominated in fiat currencies and paid digitally. This algorithm is also perhaps easier to apply because the concept of a “household” may not necessarily be required, each wallet being mapped to legal persons or companies.

Another aspect of income redistribution could be the automatic administration of a basic income – when “creating money”, central banks could distribute that money directly across all the individuals in the economy rather than effectively lending it to commercial banks.

Challenges

These two new tools for addressing economic inequality leverage potential new capabilities within sovereign digital currency infrastructure. The greatest potential benefits of these, besides actually reducing wealth and income inequality, would be significantly reducing the administrative cost to the state and increased precision and fairness of the taxation / redistribution systems.

Clearly there would be major challenges to implementation in many countries, including:

  • Fundamental legal objections to “theft of property” – where money is framed as immutable asset. But the entire concept of money relies on a collective hallucination of “property” which could be clearly defined in updated legislation.
  • Objections to increased state financial surveillance and intrusion on individual privacy
  • Digital inclusion – what about members of society not able / willing to participate in novel digital currencies?
  • Game theory – unless compelled to do so, why would anyone choose to hold wealth or receive income in a redistributive currency?
  • Security of digital currency and redistribution infrastructure and susceptibility to cyber attack
  • Risk of “big bang” rollout – perhaps mitigated by incentive-driven participation in pilot projects would support a new redistributive currency system to be introduced gradually

Conclusion

As with many new technology opportunities, China is forging ahead with establishing a next generation of digital currency infrastructure which promises to provide huge efficiencies of scale, performance and resilience for their monetary system. If this initiative is successful, the Chinese central bank will have access to an unmatched pool of transaction data which will enable them to manage their currency with an order of magnitude more precision than before.

Outside China, Western nations are slow to commit to upgrading their digital currency infrastructure. One reason for this may be anticipated objections from civil rights and privacy advocates to resist any further financial surveillance. It may be that private interests, for example the Facebook-led Libra consortium, seize the initiative from governments.

Meanwhile in the West economic inequality remains an ever more crucial political issue. Economists advocate wealth taxes as a solution but Governments will find it hard to gain the mandate to legislate these and costly to put in place the tax collection infrastructure.

This post has explored the alternative possibility of fundamentally designing income and wealth redistribution systems into the money we use – thus achieving targeted reductions in inequality at a fraction of the cost to the state of introducing and managing wealth taxes.