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Bleeding Edge

DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

What skills will human workers need when robots take over? A new algorithm would let the machines decide
By Jason Karaian
Quartz

A few years ago, Michael Osborne and a colleague at Oxford University caused a stir when they published research suggesting that 47% of jobs in the US are at risk of being replaced with robot labor. Subsequent studies suggest closer to 10% of jobs in developed countries could be automated, which is only marginally less worrying for workers. What isn’t in doubt is that advances in algorithms and robotics will transform the workplace, with both rote manual labor and higher-level cognitive tasks soon to be performed by machines. Humans and robots will increasingly collaborate, robotics companies say, with humans freed to do more productive, fulfilling tasks thanks to machines taking on the grunt work. Osborne’s latest project aims to predict what skills—independent of specific jobs—will be in highest demand among employers in 2030.

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UPS to fully automate 30 largest U.S. hubs
By Staff
DC Velocity

UPS Inc. is in the process of fully automating its 30 busiest U.S. package and delivery hubs, a four-year program that will yield 20 to 25 percent in productivity improvements per facility by the time the work is done in 2020, according to UPS' head of U.S. operations. The automation will encompass 27 ground hubs and 3 air hubs, known as "Tier 1" hubs, which handle about 60 percent of the Atlanta-based giant's volume, Myron Gray told analysts Friday as UPS released its second-quarter financial results. UPS handles about 18.3 million shipments a day worldwide.

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Comcast supports higher prices for customers who want Web privacy
By Jon Brodkin
Ars Technica

As the Federal Communications Commission debates new privacy rules for Internet service providers, Comcast has urged the commission to let ISPs offer different prices based on whether customers opt into systems that share their data and deliver personalized ads. Comcast executives met with FCC officials last week, and urged that the Commission allow business models offering discounts or other value to consumers in exchange for allowing ISPs to use their data. AT&T's "Internet Preferences" program reroutes customers' Web browsing to an in-house traffic scanning platform, analyzes the customers' search and browsing history, and then uses the results to deliver personalized ads to websites. Comcast hasn't rolled out an Internet Preferences-like service, but it could do so in the future.

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SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT

Can America's first floating wind farm shake off environmental concerns?
By Matt Weiser
The Guardian

The deep waters off the coast of California could become home to the country’s largest offshore wind energy project and a test case for a technology that is still in its infancy. The 765-megawatt project would sit about 25 miles off California’s central coast, near the town of Cambria. If built, it will be larger than the 630-megawatt London Array off the coast of Kent, – the world’s largest working offshore wind farm that began operating in 2013. The Trident project reflects an interest by the US to embrace offshore wind energy as part of a broader strategy to develop low-carbon electricity sources. The country has no offshore wind farms, though a number of projects are in the research phase to determine their profitability. The very first project to come online in the US is under construction off the coast of Rhode Island: the 30-megawatt Block Island wind farm that is expected to begin operating later this year.

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7 charts that make it clear climate change is already here
By Oliver Milman
Grist

The world is careening towards an environment never experienced before by humans, with the temperature of the air and oceans breaking records, sea levels reaching historic highs, and carbon dioxide surpassing a key milestone, a major international report has found. The “state of the climate report”, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with input from hundreds of scientists from 62 countries, confirmed there was a “toppling of several symbolic mileposts” in heat, sea-level rise, and extreme weather in 2015. The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out before us in real time, and the 2015 numbers drive that home.

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White House Tells Agencies to Consider Climate Change Effects of Projects
By Brittany Patterson
Scientific American

Don’t get too comfortable with the newest federal climate change guidelines, legal experts cautioned yesterday. A number of environmental policy experts warned that the White House recommendation that federal agencies consider climate change when conducting project reviews could be easily dialed back under a new administration. Released yesterday by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the finalized guidance recommends that agencies both calculate direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions of a project and assess how climate change might affect a project. Although the document is light on legal clout, it will go far to get federal agencies on the same page when it comes to climate change impacts and federal reviews.

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LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY

Rochester Credit Union Gives Co-Ops a Chance
By Oscar Perry Abello
Next City

Whether they’re worker-owned businesses or conventional small businesses, credit unions everywhere still face some key obstacles to small business lending. First of all, most credit unions are only allowed have 12.25 percent of their loan activity in business lending, per regulations from the National Credit Union Association, the federal agency that regulates credit unions nationwide. That said, credit union business lending is up, from $5 billion in 2002 to $46 billion in 2014, according to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

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There’s Little Public Benefit in Homeownership
By Edward Glaeser
The New York Times

It is a terrible mistake to artificially boost the homeownership rate by subsidizing borrowing. Renting saves the fixed costs of realtor’s fees, and limits exposure to housing price swing. In apartment buildings, renting avoids condominium fees and coop boards. Consequently, 87 percent of occupied units in multifamily buildings are rented. Homeownership is a good option for people who want to live in a single-family house for the next seven years or more, but for Americans who don't plan on settling in any one neighborhood, or who like dense apartment buildings, renting is more attractive.

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1.8 million American truck drivers could lose their jobs to robots. What then?
By David Roberts
Vox

So far, discussion of self-driving cars has mostly confined itself to tech geeks and urbanists, but if they live up to their promise, autonomous vehicles could have seismic effects on America’s economy and culture. It’s probably time for a wider circle of participants, including economists, politicians, and social scientists, to start grappling seriously with what’s coming. Freight trucks (semis, 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, what have you) are so ubiquitous on US highways that we scarcely give them any thought, but they are a big piece of the US economy. It may be two years, maybe five, maybe 10, but either way, the trajectory is toward truck drivers being put out of business, and 1.8 million truck driving jobs is a lot to lose in that short a period of time.

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GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT

Drivers in Kenya are protesting against being “Uber slaves”
By Lily Kuo
Quartz

Uber is encountering some bumps in Nairobi, one of its biggest markets in Africa. After months of protest and attacks by taxi drivers hoping to intimidate drivers and customers of the taxi hailing app, the company is now facing strikes from its own Uber drivers over a fare cut announced last week. Protesters in Nairobi waved picket signs with critical statements including, “we should not be Uber slaves in our country.” Uber announced a 35% fare reduction last week in hopes of boosting demand.

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There’s an all-refugee team at the Olympics—and this teen who fled Iraq will be rooting for it
By Nidhi Prakash
Fusion

As the world looks to Rio this Friday for the start of what’s already been a contentious Olympic Games, 18-year-old Abdalla and his family will be in Berlin, watching one particular team that means a lot to them. For the first time ever, the Olympics will include a team of refugees–ten athletes from around the world who have had to leave their home countries, and their athletic ambitions, behind. That’s something that Abdalla (referred to solely by his first name due to safety concerns), who trained to be a kick boxer in his home country, can very much relate to. The International Olympic Committee announced earlier this year that #TeamRefugees, which includes athletes from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will compete in the games, funded by the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity Program.

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Smartphone use has doubled in Africa in two years
By Abdi Latif Dahir
Quartz

Lower smartphone prices are driving a digital revolution in Africa, allowing mobile phone users to access the internet at unprecedented levels. Operators and developers are also leveraging the power of mobile networks to transform services in health, agriculture, education, energy and water management. The number of smartphone connections across the continent almost doubled over the last two years, reaching 226 million. Selling prices have dropped from an average of $230 in 2012 to $160 in 2015, according to a report published by GSMA on Africa’s mobile economy.

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AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

Intelligence Report: 'Constitutional sheriffs' movement spreads, promotes defiance of federal laws
Southern Poverty Law Center

A movement made up of sheriffs claiming to be the highest law enforcement authority in the country is growing nationwide as it exploits hot-button issues such as gun control to encourage sheriffs to defy federal laws they don’t like, according to the Summer 2016 issue of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, released today. The cover story, “Line in the Sand,” details the growth of this radical ideology since 2009. The movement, formed around an organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), is a phenomenon rarely, if ever, seen in the United States – a concerted, long-term effort to recruit law enforcement officers into the antigovernment “Patriot” movement.

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Black Lives Matter endorses UBI in official platform
By Kate McFarland    
Basic Income Earth Network

The Movement for Black Lives released its official platform on Monday, August 1. The platform is constructed around six core demands: Ending the war against Black people; Reparations for past and continuing harm; Investment in education, health and safety, and divestment from exploitative forces; Economic Justice for all; Community Control of laws and institutions; and independent Black Political Power. The platform is explicitly radical and visionary, aspiring to a “complete transformation of the current systems”, but its authors have also written policy briefs that outline intermediary steps to reach these visions. The document makes clear that MBL endorses a basic income for all Americans, with an additional amount (a UBI “PLUS”) given to Black Americans as reparations for harms ranging from colonialism and slavery to mass incarceration.

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The DNC Leak Shows How Vulnerable This Election Is To Hacking
By Hamza Shaban
Buzzfeed

Security experts have warned for years that there are surprisingly few measures in place to prevent a hack like one that hit the Democratic National Committee last week, releasing 20,000 emails on WikiLeaks that contained embarrassing and politically damaging correspondence about the Democratic Party’s inner workings. New reports indicate that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a fundraising arm of the party were breached as well. The hack joins an ever-growing list of serious US data breaches that have been tied to foreign actors, from the China-linked Office of Personnel Management hack announced in 2015 in which intruders stole sensitive information connected to more than 20 million US government employees and applicants, to the North Korea–linked Sony hack in 2014 when attackers leaked troves of data and crippled 70% of the studio’s servers. It seems the DNC hack is only the beginning.

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Future Left Podcast Ep. 20:  Digital Abundance's Challenge to Capitalism

Future Left Podcast Ep. 20: Digital Abundance's Challenge to Capitalism

Future Left Podcast Ep. 19: The Robot Question

Future Left Podcast Ep. 19: The Robot Question