The world's first artificially intelligent lawyer was just hired
By Chris Weller
ROSS was just unveiled as a "new hire" at the law firm Baker & Hostetler, which handles bankruptcy cases. Ask ROSS to look up an obscure court ruling from 13 years ago, and ROSS will not only search for the case in an instant—without contest or complaint—but it'll offer opinions in plain language about the old ruling's relevance to the case at hand. Just about the only thing it can't do is fetch coffee. Not that anyone should blame it, seeing as ROSS is a piece of artificial intelligence software.
Soon We Won’t Program Computers, We’ll Train Computers Like Dogs
By Jason Tanz
Code is logical. Code is hackable. Code is destiny. These are the central tenets (and self-fulfilling prophecies) of life in the digital age. In this world, the ability to write code has become not just a desirable skill but a language that grants insider status to those who speak it. They have access to what in a more mechanical age would have been called the levers of power. Our machines are starting to speak a different language now, one that even the best coders can’t fully understand. In traditional programming, an engineer writes explicit, step-by-step instructions for the computer to follow. With machine learning, programmers don’t encode computers with instructions. They train them.
How Canadian Cops Use Secret Phone Surveillance Technology
By Matthew Braga
New documents are shedding light on the controversial use of mobile phone surveillance technology by Canadian police. Court documents recently filed in a Toronto court show that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) used a device known as an IMSI catcher during a pair of criminal investigations into organized crime in early 2014. An IMSI catcher works by disguising itself as a cell phone tower, and forcing all phones in its range to to disconnect from legitimate towers and connect to the imitation tower instead. Police can take advantage of this temporary connection to collect information about nearby phones, track the movements of certain devices over time, intercept communications, and even create and send messages from the target phone, depending on the model of IMSI catcher used.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
5 big takeaways from the most thorough review of GMOs yet
By Brad Plumer
The National Academies of Sciences released a very thorough report on genetically modified crops earlier this week. It’s over 400 pages but don’t worry, this article gives a comprehensive overview and discusses policy implications for the future.
The carbon reduction technologies that could save the planet
By Peju Adeosun
Scientists and researchers have done their jobs, policy makers need to do theirs. We now have the technology and the knowledge to remove carbon from the atmosphere and reduce emissions going forward. We just need policy makers to follow through on the promises they made when signing the Paris Agreement.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
All of the problems Universal Basic Income can solve
By Olivia Goldhill
Universal Basic Income isn’t just mankind’s answer to the threat of robots in the workplace. Those who support the transformative economic policy offer widely varying versions of exactly how it would operate, but all involve distributing a standard sum of money to citizens regardless of need. Some argue that this set-up could save the millions who are on track to lose their jobs to machines. But that’s not all. Lowering carbon emissions and addressing gender inequality to name a few.
Some Drivers Aren’t Happy About the $100 Million Uber Settlement
By Davey Alba
The Uber driver most closely identified with the high-profile worker classification lawsuit against the ride-hailing giant has come out against the case’s proposed settlement. Under the settlement, Uber drivers would remain independent contractors. The original suit sought to have drivers re-classified as employees of the company, which would have added significant costs to Uber’s bottom line. As part of the settlement process, other drivers in the class have been filed numerous objections with the court over the last month, disputing matters such as how reimbursement costs have been computed and Uber’s disproportionate control over their actions on the job.
Five Views on What Basic Income Should Be and Why It Matters
It seems that basic income is on the lips of everyone today. From Finland to the Netherlands, Switzerland to Canada, governments and cities have embraced the idea as one worth testing. Although talk of basic income has been around for some time, it seems that now there is a real push, an unwavering drive and motivation to see how the idea could work in practice. Beyond the hype, however, lie some crucial questions that need to be addressed. With support from all sides of the political spectrum and interest from cities and states all over the world, it is evident that the discussion on basic income is painstakingly broad in scope and variety. What do we even mean when we talk about basic income?
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Refugees will repay EU spending almost twice over in five years
By Patrick Kingsley
Refugees who arrived in Europe last year could repay spending on them almost twice over within just five years, according to one of the first in-depth investigations into the impact incomers have on host communities. Refugees will create more jobs, increase demand for services and products, and fill gaps in European workforces – while their wages will help fund dwindling pensions pots and public finances, says Philippe Legrain, a former economic adviser to the president of the European commission.
Saudi Arabia says time may be coming for ‘Plan B’ in Syria
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Tuesday that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not abide with efforts to establish a truce across Syria country, alternatives would need to be looked at. "We believe we should have moved to a 'Plan B' a long time ago," Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after a meeting of foreign governments in Vienna. "If [the Syrian government does] not respond to the treaties of the international community...then we will have to see what else can be done."
UN’s food organization faces uphill struggle in fight against starvation
By Shounaz Meky
The looming humanitarian crisis in Syria and Yemen is making the work of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) increasingly difficult with no end in sight for either war, as they continue to support food production in these active conflict zones. The organization - which aims to help families produce food in some of the world’s most difficult crisis-hit regions - estimates that millions in Syria and Yemen are impacted by hunger and malnutrition.
How a digital divide leaves parts of rural America isolated
By Sam Thielman
Large stretches of the Navajo Nation, a sovereign state larger than 10 of the 50 states in the United States., look like the surface of some other, beautiful planet, but in many parts there is virtually no broadband. Despite the thin wire filaments connecting places like To’hajilee, a reservation of about 4,000 people to the outside world, cell phone coverage is spotty at best. In February, a break in the community’s sole line meant that none of the ATMs or credit card scanners in town worked. In many such rural communities in the United States, the low population density means that phone and internet companies simply don’t upgrade their equipment often enough to keep pace with progress. In Navajo, much of the vital infrastructure was never installed to begin with.
Ohio school district has “teach the controversy” evolution lesson plan
By John Timmer
Intelligent design, the argument that life is so complex that it must have needed a sophisticated designer, was formulated to get around court rulings that banned creationism from being taught in science classes. For a while, there was an effort to get intelligent design into schools, but that came crashing down after a court case in Dover, Pennsylvania, recognized it as inherently religious. That court case is now more than a decade old, and it looks like some school districts have a short memory.
What If Prosecutors Didn't Know The Race Of Their Defendants?
By Christina Couch
Measuring how biased prosecutor offices are is tough since offices aren't required to collect or report that kind of data. A paper published in the journal Behavioral Science and Policy proposes an alternative solution—when possible, take race out of the equation entirely. The paper proposes using automated electronic systems, paralegals, or other intermediaries to remove references to the race of the defendant prior to the prosecutor reviewing the case file. While prosecutors may figure out a defendant’s race at some point in the legal process, blinding during the early stages could reduce bias in both decisions about what crimes to charge them with and what kind of plea bargain deals they're offered.