Numlock News: March 8, 2021 • Pollination, Automation, Investigation

By Walt Hickey

Welcome Back!


Non-fungible tokens are encrypted digital assets that can be bought and sold and tied to specific works, arts, or video. These are increasingly popular, esoteric little assets that have been seen in the art world and crypto world, but a new venture will tie it to the NBA officially, allowing buyers to own officially licensed sports moments. A 12-second long Lebron dunk resold for $200,000. Finally, this is a market that makes sense for NFTs, as licensed sports memorabilia is a pretty thoroughly developed scene where rich people are content to blow a fortune on random ephemera from famous moments. Tokens are sold in packs that range from $9 to $230, and they can be sold on a thriving secondary market that’s moved $300 million in sales since Top Shot’s launch in October, the vast majority of which has been in the past 30 days. I never really got NFTs, but the concept anchoring them to owning officially-licensed moments in sports history makes perfect sense to me, and I will make it my life’s work to legally own the officially licensed 2012 Thanksgiving Day Butt Fumble, and will put it in The Louvre where it belongs.

Christine Zhang and Sara Germano, Financial Times

Rubber Stamp

Authorities in China are investigating a particularly industrious environmental impact assessment engineer whose credentials were on over 1,600 reports over a four-month period last year. The reports — which include 1,541 shorter form reports and 63 longer reports for more complex projects across 25 provinces and regions in China — are considerably more than the productivity of an assiduous engineer, over double the EIAs as the next-most productive engineer and vastly more than the typical 50 shorter reports per month an EIA engineer can crank out.

Huang Yanhao and Matthew Walsh, Caixin Global


The board of the International Code Council, which steers national home building policies by designing the boilerplate environmental standards used by states and municipalities across the country, voted 16-2 to approve changes that would box out the input of local elected officials. Buildings use about 40 percent of all energy produced in the U.S., and municipalities looking to make an impact on their environmental policies saw an opportunity to get involved with the ICC and roll out more aggressive policies to address climate impacts. In December 2019, by a margin of 3-1, the government officials approved new measures that increased energy efficiency by 14 percent. The industry part of the ICC didn’t like this, and fought to strip the local government of their votes for the next round in response.

Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPost


Flies get a bad rap, somewhat justifiably because they’re vile little carrion eaters who annoy and defile anything they touch, but also it turns out they’re critical pollinators, so I guess I gotta start dialing that all back, huh. A new study of 105 crops found that after bees, flies were the most important pollinators, visiting 72 percent of the 105 crops. Flies will go where bees won’t, like greenhouses and growing tunnels, and they reproduce a lot faster than bees do. They also have other agricultural contributions, with 4 billion hoverflies eating something like 6 trillion aphids in Britain alone, which is 20 percent of their population. Anyway, I hate this, but I guess I have to get real cool with some stuff pretty quick given the situation with the bees.

Stephanie Pain, Knowable Magazine


From February 2020 to January 2021, a whole lot of workplaces got a lot less safe, mostly because of COVID. OSHA agencies across the U.S. saw 72 percent more complaints over that period compared to the previous 12 months, about 93,000 complaints about workplace safety, roughly 57,000 of them related to coronavirus safety. Naturally, they did jack: only 6 percent of the complaints related to COVID-19 led to a workplace inspection, and overall they investigated vastly fewer complaints than the previous year, 12 percent in the pandemic period compared to 32 percent the prior 12 months. The Wall Street Journal identified 500 workplace outbreaks in places where employees complained to OSHA before about unsafe conditions, and has already found 180 worker deaths that occurred within four weeks of an OSHA complaint.

Alexandra Berzon, Shalini Ramachandran and Coulter Jones, The Wall Street Journal


Sales of automation software are projected to rise 20 percent this year, up from 12 percent last year. Increasingly, corporations are looking to automate white collar jobs that otherwise haven’t been disrupted through the rollout of a robot. These aren’t the heady AI promises from ambitious startups with money to raise, rather simple robotic process automations that smooth over simpler tasks that previously required human intervention. McKinsey prior to the pandemic predicted 37 million U.S. workers would be displaced by automation by 2030, but over the course of the pandemic actually went ahead and upped that to 45 million.

Kevin Roose, The New York Times

Mobile Gaming

In 2020, there were 210 million smartphones that were 5G compatible, and 4 billion smartphones that were not. It’s estimated by 2023 that those number will be something like 2.1 billion 5G compatible smartphones and 2.7 billion incompatible, and companies that make and market mobile games are getting primed to strike at that. 5G will create the possibility of more sophisticated mobile games combined with further cloud computing, opening up more possibilities. It’s one reason that companies like Zynga, which made its bones in basic fare like Farmville and Words With Friends, has shelled out for companies like Echtra Games and Rollic to increase their offerings.

Kaare Eriksen, Variety

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