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Idealog Year in Review 2017: Russell Craig

Favourite innovation that isn’t yours?

I can’t pick one. Throughout 2017, I have seen a variety of innovations focused on providing affordable access to drinkable water for people in developing economies that have been really exciting – water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of our age that we must address with all urgency.  I’ve also seen a lot of incredible innovations in sustainable energy production.

Favourite innovation that is yours?

Microsoft’s recently announced “Azure Confidential Computing”. This industry-leading innovation is a really big deal. Confidential computing offers a protection that to date has been missing from public clouds, encryption of data while in use. This means that data can be processed in the cloud with the assurance that it is always under customer control, and probably inaccessible to any third party.

Most interesting launch/trend/idea/building/product of the year?

Two technologies stand out for me. First, distributed ledger technologies are maturing quickly – almost as quickly as we see new ways in which they can be profoundly transformational.  Second, the rising tide of interest in use of IoT, machine learning and AI across our primary industries. Our ability to help feed a hungry world will always be New Zealand’s greatest strength. Digital allows us to do even better, while mitigating environmental impacts.

Fantastic New Zealand Example of this with Black Farm IoT on the Farm:


Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Brad Smith, for speaking up on the big matters we need to address such as governments ceasing their weaponization of cyberspace and curbing their jurisdictional overreach, the importance of us all focusing on the ethical issues associated with AI, the importance of using technology to address environmental and humanitarian challenges and the need for greater diversity and inclusion in our industry.



Your own biggest success?

Being involved in the development of a ground-breaking new way to evaluate national efforts to develop “smart societies”.

What’s the biggest mistake innovators/businesses will make in 2018?

Failing to have big enough ambitions.

What do you expect to see in the next five years?

Quantum coprocessors running in Azure.

What will be dead in the next five years?

Apps will be fading away, being replaced by personal digital assistants.

What should be invented and/or un-invented?

MP3 audio should be un-invented. I’ve always found it completely unlistenable and very tiring, because my brain is busy trying to process the fact that so much audio data is missing. Analogue rules, followed by genuinely hi-res digital!

Favourite book/TV show/podcast/album/website/magazine/story/performance enhancing drug of the year?

I’ve quite enjoyed the first few episodes of Designated Survivor.  Even though the script is a bit cliched, the producers clearly intend to portray their vision of what an “anti-Trump” presidency would look like. A good reminder of the strengths of the US political system if it is function remotely as its designers intended.

What’s the one piece of tech would you have on a desert island?

I want three things –  a Swiss army knife, and magnifying glass and an EPIRB!

Will the robots become sentient and kill us all? (asking for a friend)

Robots will become sentient.  Whether they kill us all or not is up to us.

How long before we have:

Driverless cars?

They’re here now, but will take longer to become the norm than we like to think.

Flying cars?

Again, they’re already here.


What is immortality? Often, when I read a good book, watch an old movie, or listen to an old recording, I  have a feeling that the creator has achieved a sort of immortality so long as humans, or some other sentient being, are around to appreciate it in the future. As for physical immortality, I hope we don’t get there. We’d become bored and dissolute.

Cities that all look like Venice?


No planet to live on?

As long as we can become an interstellar species, I’m not concerned. To infinity, and beyond!

No animals farmed or eaten?


Chatbot lovers?

I love chatbots. Doesn’t everyone?

Fusion energy?

Soon, I hope. What a transformative technology that will be!

Universal basic income?

We already have it – it’s called National Superannuation. Beyond that, a long time if ever, because an effective UBI requires a major dismantling of the welfare state.

Chips implanted in our brains?

Ask Elon.

Colonies on Mars?



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Review overview