You Can’t Talk About Robots Without Talking About Basic Income
By Wren Handman
A sharp uptake in technology designed to automate jobs and replace human workers is bringing new voices to this old debate. Today’s society could be disastrously affected by artificial intelligence and growing automation, and scientists and technologists are looking for ways to stop that damage before it happens. The eyes of the tech industry are turning towards basic income, and the entire conversation is changing.
Google Has Open Sourced Its Language AI
By Cade Metz
So many researchers working at so many tech giants, startups, and universities are pushing computers towards true natural language understanding. And the state-of-the-art keeps getting better, thanks in large part to deep neural networks—networks of hardware and software that mimic the web of neurons in the brain. The hope is that this same breed of artificial intelligence can dramatically improve a machine’s ability to grasp the significance of those words, to understand how those words interact to form meaningful sentences. Google is among those at the forefront of this research and today, the company open sourced the software that serves as the foundation for its natural language work, freely sharing it with the world at large.
Philly Police Admit Disguised Spy Truck as Google Car
By Cyrus Farivar
The Philadelphia Police Department admitted that a mysterious unmarked license plate surveillance truck disguised as a Google Maps vehicle is its own. A “public safety technology” expert says that the truck was outfitted with a ELSAG MPH-900, which uses “infrared cameras to find plate numbers and letters via temperature differentials between those characters and the surrounding background through optical character recognition.” All plates swept up in such a dragnet fashion “are logged with the time/date of the read, GPS latitude/longitude coordinates of where the read occurred, and a photo of the plate and surrounding vehicle,” he added.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
Climate Change Is Shrinking Earth’s Far-Flying Birds
By Ed Yong
Every year, flocks of red knots criss-cross the globe. In the summer, these shorebirds breed in the Arctic circle, making the most of the exposed vegetation and constant daylight. Then, anticipating the returning ice and continuous night, they fly to the opposite end of the world. These migratory marathons mean that the red knot’s fate in one continent can be decided by conditions half a world away. And that makes it a global indicator, a sentinel for a changing world. It is the proverbial canary in the coalmine, except the mine is the planet. And the canary is shrinking.
Obama administration announces regulations on methane emissions
By Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis
The Obama administration on Thursday announced a set of much-anticipated—and first ever—steps to regulate oil and gas industry emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas second only to carbon dioxide in its role in the climate debate. The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a new rule that will target emissions from new or modified oil and gas wells — and prevent 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by the year 2025, the agency said.
Investigation reveals where our e-waste goes
By Katie Herzog
What happens to our old devices after we drop them off? A Seattle-based watchdog group, partnered with MIT to insert 200 GPS tracking devices in old computers, TVs, and printers. They dropped the goods off at donation centers and recyclers that advertise environmental responsibility, including Goodwill, and waited to see where those products actually ended up. They ended up overseas, where they were dismantled by workers with few protections from all the heavy metals and toxic chemicals that they contain. Every industrialized nation in the world has made it illegal to dump hazardous waste in developing nations—with the notable exception of the United States.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
When did optimism become uncool?
By Greg Easterbook
The New York Times
Given Donald Trump’s virtual lock on the Republican presidential nomination, you’d think he’d be a bit more upbeat. Instead, his campaign began last summer with “our country is going to hell,” then declared, “we’re becoming a third world country,” and by this month had progressed to the United States “losing all the time.” Yet a glance out the window shows blue sky. There are troubling issues, including the horror of mass shootings, but most American social indicators have been positive at least for years, in many cases for decades. The country is, on the whole, in the best shape it’s ever been in. So what explains all the bad vibes?
NCEO Founder Urges You To Consider Selling Your Business To An ESOP
By Darren Dahl
Corey Rosen, the founder of the National Center for Employee Ownership, has long been a believer in the cascading benefits that result when employees own an equity stake where they work. Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) are now widespread thanks in large part to his advocacy and grassroots efforts. Rosen tells Forbes why he believes in their power, and why, despite all the benefits of ESOPs, more companies haven’t followed suit. He also explains why, if you’re thinking about selling your business, you should consider selling it to an ESOP.
Chicken workers in diapers—the high cost of cheap meat
By Mariel Garza
The LA Times
Chicken is so cheap these days that it was not a complete surprise to read the Oxfam America report about how poultry workers in U.S. plants are run so ragged that they are denied bathroom breaks. As a result, some say they have resorted to using diapers while on a shift. Nor was it news that it's grueling work to process chickens. A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Unsafe at any Speed," blasted plants for line speeds so fast that they led to high numbers of worker injuries.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
World Bank Proposes 'global coalition' for sustainable transportation
By Jeff Tyson
The Paris climate agreement signed by 175 nations last month will not meet its goals unless climate-smart, energy-efficient transportation systems become the new normal in many of the world’s urban centers. To help make that happen, the world’s largest multilateral donor is proposing a new “global coalition” of world leaders to move the sustainable transportation agenda forward.
Why unarmed revolutions topple some dictators but not others
By Daniel Ritter
Over the last few decades, the world has witnessed the proliferation of a new type of revolution. These revolutions largely eschew violent tactics and have become a distinguishing feature of contemporary international politics. Although the long-term gains achieved in the wake of these and other unarmed revolutions have often disappointed their protagonists, their ability to unseat autocrats through the use of nonviolent tactics constitutes a formidable social science puzzle in itself. Why do some attempts at unarmed revolution fail to oust despots, even though such movements may initially appear identical to their successful counterparts?
How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself
By Antonio Sampaio
Not so long ago, many in Brazil saw the Left as the best hope for the country’s salvation. And, though the Workers’ Party may be better known in the wider world for its audacious (and successful) antipoverty programs, no less of a draw for Brazilians was its promise to institute clean government and do away with graft. Now, however, the biggest corruption scandal in national history is revealing the extent to which Rousseff and her allies actively contributed to the rot of Brazil’s democratic institutions. It has taken the impeachment of the country’s first female president to lay bare this dispiriting reality.
New York City Announces New Initiatives to Ease Bail Burdens
By Brentin Mock
Penalties for individuals unable to fund bail when arraigned in court go far beyond sitting in jail until trial. People can lose their jobs when they miss work because they’re detained; their sons and daughters can get left behind at school or daycare. Being unable to make bail can also mean death, which is what happened in the tragic cases of Kalief Browder and Jeffrey Pendleton. Each was held in, and died in, jail because they were unable to post bail. A large part of the overall problem is that the bail system still operates almost exclusively in cash in an era where many financial transactions are made through credit or debit cards or apps. New York City has been taking steps to fix these bail problems since last fall, spurred by Browder’s death.
States Prove That Voter Registration at the D.M.V. Works
The New York Times
The act of voting can be shamefully difficult in this country amid the crazy quilt of often-dysfunctional systems employed by the states and thousands of localities. The discouraging fact is, citizens in 17 states will find new voting restrictions in place this year—obstacles that include stringent photo ID requirements, limits on early voting and unjust hurdles in the registration process. That is all the more reason to celebrate the positive, pro-voter measures quietly enacted in some states, most notably an electronic system of registering voters automatically when they visit motor vehicle departments. In the past 14 months, four states have voted to put this innovative system in place, while 28 other states and the District of Columbia have been considering the idea.
Burying the White Working Class
By Connor Kilpatrick
The white working class is a zombie that doesn’t know it’s dead. Or if it’s not fully zombified yet, its members are all too busy cleaning their AR-15s and posting racist comments on YouTube to vote for a progressive. That is, if they’re not already on the Trump bandwagon, which they probably are. At least that’s what the Democratic Party wants you to believe.