The Body Cam Trade-Off
By Anand Jahi
Ever since the Snowden revelations, both liberals and conservatives have become increasingly convinced that government surveillance and encroachment into Americans’ lives has spiraled out of control. This tug-of-war between privacy and security is ongoing and most recently manifested in the battle between Apple and the FBI over rights to the data stored in smartphones. Yet when it comes to providing safety and security for poor people of color in the United States there is little debate. Instead, there is a nearly universal call for more surveillance — more data, more dash-cams, more body cameras. Support for this type of surveillance is so ubiquitous that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders (not to mention many Black Lives Matter organizations and activists) have all come out in support of body cams. How is it that these three candidates, who have staked out radically different positions on most issues, have all landed on the same policy prescription?
Elon Musk says we could all be living in a video game
By Noah Kulwin
Onstage at the Code Conference, Elon Musk explained to the crowd why it's entirely possible, if not likely, that our existence is really a simulation being run by a highly advanced civilization. Here's Musk's argument:
“The strongest argument for us being in a simulation is the following: 40 years ago, we had Pong. Two rectangles and a dot. Now, 40 years later, we have photorealistic 3D with millions playing simultaneously. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by 1000 from what it is now. It's a given that we’re clearly on a trajectory that we’re going to have games that are indistinguishable from reality. It would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is 1 in millions.”
Google DeepMind Researchers Develop AI Kill Switch
By Michael Byrne
Artificial intelligence doesn't have to include murderous, sentient super-intelligence to be dangerous. It's dangerous right now, albeit in generally more primitive terms. If a machine can learn based on real-world inputs and adjust its behaviors accordingly, there exists the potential for that machine to learn the wrong thing. If a machine can learn the wrong thing, it can do the wrong thing. Laurent Orseau and Stuart Armstrong, researchers at Google's DeepMind and the Future of Humanity Institute, respectively, have developed a new framework to address this in the form of "safely interruptible" artificial intelligence. In other words, their system, which is described in a paper to be presented at the 32nd Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, guarantees that a machine will not learn to resist attempts by humans to intervene in the its learning processes.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
CBO warns of climate change's budget impact
By Matthew Nussbaum
Since 2000 over $209 billion has been spent on hurricane damage in the U.S. The Congressional Budget Office reports are apparently not persuading republicans to enact policies to address climate change, no matter how much it costs. Some representatives still call it a hoax.
Business-Driven Sustainability Will Change the World
By Claus Stig Pedersen
If Republicans are going to stymie sustainable development, the private sector will have to step up. That’s exactly what’s happening. Sustainability doesn’t just benefit Earth and consumers, it benefits the workers and the business owners too. This article outlines how that isn’t too good to be true and what it means for the future.
Santiago's Subway Will Soon Be The First To Run On Mostly Solar And Wind Power
By Adele Peters
The Atacama region in Chile—where it essentially never rains—is the sunniest place on the planet. By 2017, some of the solar power produced there will be sent hundreds of miles away to the subway in Santiago, the first metro system in the world that will get most of its power from renewable energy. The subway, which serves 2.5 million commuters every day, will get up to 60% of its energy from a new solar installation and up to 18% from the nearby San Juan wind farm.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
Uber is in the sub-prime auto business
By Chris Tomlinson
The Houston Chronicles
Uber is having a hard time finding enough people with cars willing to work for them. To solve that problem, the company has raised $1 billion to start Xchange Leasing, a sub-prime lender with the sole purpose of getting poor people into new cars so they can drive for the ride-hailing service.If you've got a license and are willing to drive, Uber will hook you up with a new car, no matter how bad your credit. To make sure you make your payments, though, Uber will automatically deduct them weekly from what you earn as a driver. If you don't drive enough, or you fail to make your lease payment, Xchange has folks to take the car back.
In pricey Bay Area, some turn to vans for cheap living quarters
By Antoinette Siu
The Washington Post
Faced with the most expensive rentals in the nation, workers in the Bay Area increasingly are searching for creative housing options. Somewhere between homeless encampments and luxurious lofts, another in a growing list of alternatives has surfaced for those priced out of the market: renting a van not to drive but to live in. What some may call roughing it, one van-lord calls an affordable solution. He charges $700 to $800 a month to rent his sleeper vans, in addition to 40 cents a mile charged via Getaround, the car-sharing service.
Panama Papers Reveal How Wealthy Americans Hid Millions Overseas
By Eric Lipton and Julie Creswell
The New York Times
In recent weeks, the papers’ revelations about Mossack Fonseca’s international clientele have shaken the financial world. The Times’s examination of the files found that Mossack Fonseca also had at least 2,400 United States-based clients over the past decade, and set up at least 2,800 companies on their behalf in the British Virgin Islands, Panama, the Seychelles and other jurisdictions that specialize in helping hide wealth. Many of these transactions were legal; there are legitimate reasons to create offshore accounts, particularly when setting up a business overseas or buying real estate in a foreign country. But the documents—confidential emails, copies of passports, ledgers of bank transactions and even the various code names used to refer to clients—show that the firm did much more than simply create offshore shell companies and accounts. For many of its American clients, Mossack Fonseca offered a how-to guide of sorts on skirting or evading United States tax and financial disclosure laws.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Guaranteed Income for All? Switzerland’s Voters Say No Thanks
By Raphael Minder
The New York Times
Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to guarantee an income to Switzerland’s residents, whether or not they are employed, an idea that has also been raised in other countries amid an intensifying debate over wealth disparities and dwindling employment opportunities. About 77 percent of voters rejected a plan to give a basic monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs, or about $2,560, to each adult, and 625 francs for each child under 18, regardless of employment status, to fight poverty and social inequality and guarantee a “dignified” life to everyone. Switzerland was the first country to vote on such a universal basic income plan, but other countries and cities either have been considering the idea or have started trial programs. Finland is set to introduce a pilot program for a random sample of about 10,000 adults who will each receive a monthly handout of 550 euros, about $625. The intent is to turn the two-year trial into a national plan if it proves successful.
El Salvador: Inside the world's deadliest peacetime country
By Andrew Buncombe
El Salvador’s violence involving rival gangs that were first established in Los Angeles and are involved in the trafficking of drugs to the United States, along with the police and army’s counter-gang operations, has created a devastating situation. Kidnapping and extortion are rife, while the government has been accused of operating death squads. Many, perhaps most, of those being killed are children and teenagers. In 2015, it recorded 104 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, a rise of 67 per cent on the figures for 2014 and making El Salvador the deadliest nation per capita outside of a war zone. Only nations such as Syria and Iraq are deadlier. By comparison, the United Kingdom’s murder rate is 1 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the United States, with all its problems of gun violence, has a figure of 4.
In fighting ISIS, Iraq’s Shiite militias could ignite a sectarian mess
By Hugh Naylor and Mustafa Salim
The Washington Post
Iraqi soldiers are battling to drive the Islamic State out of Fallujah. But just beyond the edges of the flashpoint city are Shiite militias that many Iraqis fear could undermine the campaign against the radical group. These government-aligned militiamen have helped push the Islamic State out of key areas of the country but also have become a complication for the U.S.-backed military coalition assembled to destroy the hard-line Sunni group. They filled an important void left by Iraq’s weakened armed forces, but their religiously motivated agenda has aggravated Iraq’s combustible sectarian divisions.
Hunger Transcends Geography in the U.S.
By Tanvi Misra
Hunger isn’t just a problem for the poorest of the poor. It cuts across age, race, gender, and affects Americans in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. In fact, every single county in the U.S. experiences food insecurity (defined here as “limited or uncertain” access to food), according to the latest “Map the Meal Gap” report by Feeding America, a network of 200 U.S. food banks
The Graying of Rural America
By Alana Semuels
Over the past two decades, as cities have become job centers that attract diverse young people, rural America has become older, whiter, and less populated. Between 2010 and 2014, rural areas lost an average of 33,000 people a year. Today, just 19 percent of Americans live in areas the Census department classifies as rural, down from 44 percent in 1930. But roughly one-quarter of seniors live in rural communities, and 21 of the 25 oldest counties in the United States are rural.
More Time to Unwind, Unless You’re a Woman
By Tyler Cowen
The New York Times
The work-week hasn’t been falling much since World War II, if at all. To the extent that leisure time has gone up, it is mostly because household chores are done more efficiently and because some people have lost their jobs. And there is a significant shift that underlies these statistics. Women are working far more than they once did, and probably more than they would choose to do, if they were able to balance their work and family lives freely.