Robocops are here. It’s time to create rules for how police can use them.
By P.W. Singer and Emefa Addo Agawu
Micah Xavier Johnson, the Dallas shooter, will go down in history as a domestic terrorist who killed five officers and wounded nine others. He will also go down in history as the first person killed by an armed police robot. To get caught up in that narrow discussion about the tactics in one encounter is not just to second-guess those on the scene but to miss the bigger issue. Robotics are here to stay, and the questions over their use will only grow more pressing. What’s more, the discussions we need to have tie back to the societal debates over policing and race relations that got us here in the first place.
Another AI startup wants to replace hedge funds
By Mark Bergen
A machine intelligence system, dubbed Emma AI, is starting a fund that hopes to outsmart the humans and computers that make a living trading stocks. It’s part of a wave of tech startups aiming advanced machine learning at financial markets. Automation is not new to Wall Street. But Shaunak Khire, Emma’s creator, claims his system differs from current finance computing — high-frequency trading and “quant” data science — because its system of neural nets takes into account a more complex set of factors affecting stocks, like management changes or monetary policy in Europe, that other programs miss. Emma will start trading stocks from pharma giant GSK and Tesla along with U.S. Treasury bonds.
Adidas will open a new robot-staffed shoe factory in Atlanta in 2017
By Darrell Etherington
Your next Adidas runners might be made in America – by a robot. The shoemaker revealed more details today about its coming ‘Speedfactory,’ which it previously announced would be coming to the U.S. in 2017. The factory will call Atlanta home, and feature 74,000 square feet of robot shoemaking capability, with full operational status target for the end of next year.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
Is “Sustainable Beef” Really A Thing?
By Venessa Wong
In 2014, the company committed to “begin purchasing a portion of beef from verified sustainable sources in 2016,” and last year, it hinted at potential changes to its beef supply after completing a sustainability pilot program with producers in Canada. When McDonald’s made the 2014 commitment, it offered few details about what “sustainable” meant, how much of its beef it hoped would be sustainable, or where it would be sold. The vagueness of the promise raised some eyebrows, but others were hopeful. The idea of sustainable beef is a little like the United Nations, after all: It makes us feel slightly better about the world, even if we’re not sure exactly what it does. How exactly can beef be environmentally friendly when produced at the scale desired by a burger-hungry world?
Rising avocado prices fuelling illegal deforestation in Mexico
By Haroom Siddiqui
The popularity of the avocado in the US and rising prices for the “superfood” are fuelling deforestation in central Mexico. Mexican farmers can make much higher profits growing avocados than from most other crops and so are thinning out pine forests to plant young avocado trees. Such is the size of the market that it has become a lucrative business for Mexico’s drug gangs, with extortion money paid to criminal organisations such as Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar) in Michoacán – the state that produces most of Mexico’s avocados – estimated at 2bn pesos ($109m) a year.
The World's Population Is Very Slowly Backing Away From The Dangerous Coasts
By Jessica Leber
Throughout the history of civilization, humans have always congregated around coastal regions, from early societies on the Persian Gulf to today’s largest megacities, like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Jakarta. But an intriguing new study suggests that the global population is very slowly distributing further away from the coasts than it has in the past. In an era where cities have to worry about sea level rise and super-charged storms, this kind of trend is probably a positive development for the future of humanity.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
How Uber Manages Drivers Without Technically Managing Drivers
By Sarah Kessler
If Uber exerts too much control over its drivers, it risks providing evidence to the many lawyers who accuse the company of treating its independent contractors as employees. But like any company, Uber also wants to provide great service to its customers, which usually involves telling workers what to do. A new case study details how the company has figured out how to walk a fine line by using its app and notifications as management tools.
Oil prices plummet amid continued oversupply, with no end in sight
By Debbie Carlson
Oil may be a precious and dwindling resource, but at the moment, at least, it looks like we just have too much of it. Crude-oil prices are now at their lowest since early April, hit by continued oversupply, concerns about global demand and negative price sentiment by oil-market participants. And that situation looks likely to continue in the near future.
Inequality is a choice: Rewriting the rules of the American economy
By Amy Kenyon
“Inequality is not inevitable. It is a choice.” That is what Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy, a report from the Roosevelt Institute, asks policymakers to grapple with now that issues of wage stagnation, opportunity, and income inequality are finally front and center in today’s national conversation. For decades, US economic policies have presented growth and equality as a zero-sum game, with many economists arguing that the country could not have one without giving up the other. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that inequality not only hurts the American dream of opportunity for all, but it is also bad for the economy. Rewriting the Rules takes a fresh look at the policies that have rigged our economic system to favor short-term profits for the rich over shared growth and prosperity for all.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Saudi Arabia close to deal to buy $1.15bn worth of military equipment from US
The United States has approved the possible sale to Saudi Arabia of up to 153 tanks, hundreds of machine guns and other military gear in a deal worth $1.15bn. The announcement coincided with news that Saudi-led coalition warplanes had resumed air strikes on Yemen’s capital for the first time in three months, killing 14 people and shutting the airport after UN-brokered talks were suspended. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Riyadh had requested the possible purchase of up to 133 American M1A1/A2 Abrams tanks that would be configured to Saudi needs, plus another 20 to replace damaged tanks in their fleet.
U.S. Warns It Will Respond Harshly If Israel Demolishes Palestinian Village of Sussia
By Barak Ravid and Yotam Berger
The United States has warned it will respond harshly if Israel demolishes the Palestinian village of Sussia in the southern Hebron Hills. Israeli and American officials, who asked not to be named, said Tuesday that over the past two weeks U.S. administration officials have informed officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry that a severe American reaction would result if Israel destroys the houses in the village. The Israeli officials said similar messages were conveyed over the past two weeks by the European Union, the British government and other international bodies.
As South Koreans Lose Faith in Uncle Sam They Want Nukes of Their Own
By Gordon B. Chang
The Daily Beast
A majority of South Koreans, living in a democratic state that looks peaceful, want the most destructive weapons on earth. Their dangerous neighbor across the Demilitarized Zone has had them for more than a decade, 54 percent of those questioned in a January Gallup Korea poll said they favored developing nuclear weapons. U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s frequent calls this year for South Korea to arm itself with nukes have helped incite and ignite more demands that Seoul restart its nuclear weapons program.
Some cities want to offer publicly owned internet access. A new ruling makes that harder.
By Timothy B. Lee
A federal appeals court has rejected an Obama administration regulation that aimed to clear the way for cities to build their own broadband networks. The ruling means that it will be a lot harder for cities in certain states to offer a "public option" for broadband service in competition with private cable and telephone companies. The court decision is doubtless being celebrated by big telecommunications companies, who would prefer not to face competition from the public sector. But the fight isn’t over.
Would better technology at the Baltimore Police Department have saved Freddie Gray?
By Kristen V. Brown
In a scathing report issued Wednesday, the Department of Justice found that the Baltimore Police Department has a troubling record of racial bias. The report confirmed what was widely expected in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray last year—if you are poor, black or from the wrong part of town, you’re much more likely to get roughed up by Baltimore’s cops. Chief among the concerns of the DOJ investigators was the role that technology—or rather, a lack of it—played in allowing the department’s patterns of racism and bias to continue unchecked. Baltimore police officers, the report found, had neither adequate technology to do their jobs well, nor the technology in place to catch them when they screwed up.
Can Free Markets Keep People Healthy?
By Vann R. Newkirk II
Last year, the 24,000-resident city of Scott County, Indiana was the epicenter of one of the biggest American outbreaks of HIV since the height of the AIDS panic in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor and the Republican vice-presidential nominee, took stances against clean-needle programs and in favor of criminalizing drug use. Most of his positions, however, are firmly within the conservative tradition of health policy, favoring a hands-off policy of few government-sponsored interventions and leaving individuals to their own health-care choices. Evidence suggests this approach creates crises rather than fixing them.