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Bleeding Edge Roundup

DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Europe's robots to become 'electronic persons' under draft plan
By Georgina Prodhan
Reuters

Europe's growing army of robot workers could be classed as "electronic persons" and their owners liable to paying social security for them if the European Union adopts a draft plan to address the realities of a new industrial revolution. The draft motion called on the European Commission to consider "that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations".

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Automation is making human labor more valuable than ever
By Timothy B. Lee
Vox

The modern economy was built on automation, so it's natural to assume that the future will be defined by automation as well. It seems like every week there's a new study or think piece about the job-destroying potential of robotics and artificial intelligence. But our collective obsession with job-stealing robots can cause us to overestimate the impact of automation—and obscure an important point about the economy. In many service industries, human labor is a mark of luxury. So at the same time robots destroy manufacturing jobs, the demand for labor-intensive services is soaring.

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White House warns Congress not to kill net neutrality and cable box rules
By Jon Brodkin
ArsTechnica

The White House has urged Republican lawmakers to give up efforts to strip the Federal Communications Commission of regulatory powers and tens of millions of dollars in budget funding. President Obama's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the House of Representatives' budget bill for fiscal 2017 because of these and other provisions. The Republican budget proposal "includes highly problematic ideological provisions," like ones that "prevent the Federal Communications Commission from promoting a free and open Internet and encouraging competition in the set-top box market, impacting millions of broadband and cable customers," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy yesterday.

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SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT

Solar panels thinner than a human hair will soon be everywhere
By David Roberts
Vox

One of the reasons solar photovoltaic power is going to take over the world is that it is scalable in a way no other power source can be. It can be used to build multi-hundred-megawatt power plants, or it can be scaled down. Way down. How far down? Try less than the width of a human hair.

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Brexit Could Encourage British Companies To Pollute And Waste More
By Alexander Kaufman
The Huffington Post

Splitting away from the European Union won’t just choke the British economy. British companies may end up creating more trash and dirtying the air in the wake of the Brexit, according to a new report. When the EU’s ambitious targets for reducing waste and increasing recycling first went into effect two years ago, the United Kingdom pushed back, insisting that it would be too expensive for businesses to comply. Once negotiations to leave the EU are complete—a process that could take two years or more—UK legislators may scale back those regulations, found a report examining environmental and social governance at UK corporations from investor research firm Sustainalytics.

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Making India's waste streams sustainable
By Ben Miller
MIT News

The massive Deonar dumping ground in Mumbai has become the most visible emblem of an increasingly serious nationwide problem for India: what to do with its trash. Deonar’s towers of garbage are tall enough that there are concerns they could affect the flight patterns of airplanes coming and going from India’s financial capital. The dump has caught fire twice so far in 2016, enveloping the city in smoke and raising an outcry from locals. And Mumbai isn’t alone. Nearly every city in India faces waste management challenges that are only expected to grow along with rising population and affluence.

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LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY

The Workplace of the Future
By Meg Osman
CO.EXIST

The workplace of the future is always being created. Every day, companies are introducing new ideas, strategies, and technologies that change how and where we work. Each year, new graduates enter the workforce with bold ideas about their workstyle preferences and needs. New research is constantly emerging that points to new ways for us to work smarter, healthier, and more effectively. Collectively, these influences are reshaping workplaces and pushing them to a future state that never stops evolving.

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To mitigate poverty, Y Combinator set to launch minimum income plan
By Cyrus Farivar
ArsTechnica

Earlier this month, Y Combinator, the famed Silicon Valley incubator dropped a bombshell: it had selected this city to be the home of its new "Basic Income" pilot project, to start later this year. The idea is pretty simple. Give some people a small amount of money per month, no strings attached, for a year, and see what happens. With any luck, people will use it to lift themselves out of poverty. In this case, as Matt Krisiloff of Y Combinator Research (YCR) told Ars, that means spending about $1.5 million over the course of a year to study the distribution of "$1,500 or $2,000" per month to "30 to 50" people. There will also be a similar-sized control group that gets nothing. The project is set to start before the end of 2016.

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They Don’t Just Hide Their Money. Economist Says Most of Billionaire Wealth is Unearned
By Didier Jacobs
Evonomics

The 62 richest people in the world own as much wealth as half of humanity. Such extreme wealth conjures images of both fat cats and deserving entrepreneurs. So where did so much money come from? It turns out, three-fourths of extreme wealth in the US falls on the fat cat side. A key empirical question in the inequality debate is to what extent rich people derive their wealth from “rents”, which is windfall income they did not produce, as opposed to activities creating true economic benefit.

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GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT

Colombia Farc: Celebrations after ceasefire ends five decades of war
BBC

Colombians are celebrating the signing of a ceasefire by the government and the Farc rebel movement, which ended 50 years of civil war. In the capital, Bogota, people took to the streets, hugging each other and singing the national anthem. The announcement is seen as one of the last steps before a full peace deal is signed, which is expected within weeks.

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Why the GOP is trying to stop the Pentagon's climate plan
By Danny Vinik
POLITICO

In Washington, big agencies rarely get high marks for innovation and foresight. But when it comes to coping with climate change, the largest federal agency—the Pentagon—has taken a spot in the vanguard. As far as back as the George W. Bush administration, the Defense Department was warning that global warming posed a threat to U.S. national security, and that the military needed to be preparing accordingly. This year it went further, laying out a new game plan that assigns specific top officials the jobs of figuring out how climate change should shape everything from weapons acquisition to personnel training. Last week, however, House Republicans voted to block it. By a 216-205 vote Thursday, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the department from spending money to put its new plan into effect.

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The Security Consequences of Brexit
The New York Times

Apart from creating economic turmoil, Britain’s calamitous vote to leave the European Union could have no less profound foreign policy consequences, weakening the interlocking web of Western institutions and alliances that have helped guarantee international peace and stability for 70 years.

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AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

Congress Refuses, So California Will Study Gun Violence
By Mattie Quinn
Governing

Taking matters into its own hands, California will open the nation's first public research center dedicated to the study of gun violence. The California Firearm Violence Research Center will fill the hole that Congress left when it defunded and effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's gun research in 1996. To establish the center, SB 1006, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, allocates $5 million to the University of California over a five-year period.

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Getting More Formerly Incarcerated People Into Public Housing
By Brentin Mock
Citylab

When Afomeia Tesfai, a research fellow for Human Impact Partners, took a look at the health impacts of public-housing policies on the formerly incarcerated in Oakland, California, she found some good news. Public housing authorities normally have a bad rep for creating policies that make it difficult for those returning from jail to find new, affordable homes. In Oakland, however, former inmates have been finding it a bit easier to get into public housing in recent years, Tesfai found in a new report from the Ella Baker Center.  

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Paying for success in education: Comparing opportunities in the United States and globally
Emily Gustafsson-Wright and Sophie Gardiner
The Brookings Institution

“This is about governments using data for performance rather than compliance” was a resounding message coming out of the US Department of Education’s conference on June 10 on the use of Pay for Success contracts in education. These contracts, known globally as social impact bonds, continue to be at the forefront of global conversations about results-based financing mechanisms, and have garnered significant momentum this week with passage of the Social Impact Partnerships for Pay for Results Act in the US. While limitations certainly exist, their potential to revolutionize the way we fund social projects is tremendous.

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Digital Abundance: Piracy, Open Access, and the Challenge to Capitalism

Digital Abundance: Piracy, Open Access, and the Challenge to Capitalism

FUTURE LEFT PODCAST BONUS EP: Eat Your Trash!

FUTURE LEFT PODCAST BONUS EP: Eat Your Trash!