Category: TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

Capitalism is in crisis. To save it, we need to rethink economic growth.

That mindless growth, Hickel and his fellow degrowth believers contend, is very bad both for the planet and for our spiritual well-being. We need, Hickel writes, to develop “new theories of being” and rethink our place in the “living world.” (Hickel goes on about intelligent plants and their ability to communicate, which is both controversial botany and confusing economics.) It’s tempting to dismiss it all as being more about social engineering of our lifestyles than about actual economic reforms. 

Though Hickel, an anthropologist, offers a few suggestions (“cut advertising” and “end planned obsolescence”), there’s little about the practical steps that would make a no-growth economy work. Sorry, but talking about plant intelligence won’t solve our woes; it won’t feed hungry people or create well-paying jobs. 

Still, the degrowth movement does have a point: faced with climate change and the financial struggles of many workers, capitalism isn’t getting it done. 

Slow

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Governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to restrict internet freedom

The news: Global internet freedom has declined for the 10th year in a row as governments use the coronavirus pandemic as cover to restrict people’s rights, according to a report by think tank Freedom House. Its researchers assessed 65 countries, accounting for 87% of internet users worldwide. The report covers the period from June 2019 to May 2020, but some key changes took place when the pandemic struck.  

The pandemic effect: In at least 20 countries, the pandemic was cited as a reason to introduce sweeping new restrictions on speech and arrest online critics. In 28, governments blocked websites or forced outlets, users, or platforms to censor information in order to suppress critical reporting, unfavorable health statistics or other content related to the coronavirus. In at least 45 of the countries studied, people were arrested as a result of their online posts about covid-19.

Many countries are also conducting increasingly

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“Net-zero” emissions by 2050 looks increasingly out of reach

Climate scientists have found that any scenario that prevents the planet from shooting past 1.5 ˚C of warming requires effectively eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions by around midcentury.

But can that still be done after decades of delayed action on climate change?

In its annual report released on Tuesday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has taken a detailed look at what it may take for the world to achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050. (Net zero means that any emissions remaining at that point would need to be offset with carbon removal efforts such as tree planting.) The scenario is stark, demanding “unparalleled changes across all parts of the energy sector,” the research agency found.

And these radical overhauls would have to begin soon. In just the next decade the world would need to:

  • Slash global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% from 2010 levels.
  • Increase the share of renewables like wind, solar,
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Why the “homework gap” is key to America’s digital divide

When the pandemic hit, parents scrambled to get enough devices to get their kids for online schooling. But even when they did, not everything went smoothly. Getting multiple people online for hours at a time in a home was one big obstacle; making sure entire communities were able to sign on was another.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the senior Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission, wasn’t surprised. For years, Rosenworcel has talked about the “homework gap,” the term she coined to describe a problem facing communities where kids can’t access the internet because infrastructure is inadequate, their families can’t afford it, or both. 

People are now paying attention—not least because rumors are swirling that if Joe Biden is elected president, she could be appointed chairperson of the FCC. (Rosenworcel would not confirm these rumors, citing the Hatch Act.)

The FCC’s current broadband standard is a download speed of at least 25 megabits

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Inside Singapore’s huge bet on vertical farming

From the outside, VertiVegies looked like a handful of grubby shipping containers put side by side and drilled together. A couple of meters in height, they were propped up on a patch of concrete in one of Singapore’s nondescript suburbs. But once he was inside, Ankesh Shahra saw potential. Huge potential. 

Shahra, who wears his dark hair floppy and his expensive-looking shirts with their top button casually undone, had a lot of experience in the food industry. His grandfather had founded the Ruchi Group, a corporate powerhouse in India with offshoots in steel, real estate, and agriculture; his father had started Ruchi Soya, a $3 billion oilseed processor that had been Shahra’s training ground.

By the time Shahra was introduced to VertiVegies founder Veera Sekaran at a friend’s party in 2017, he was hungry to make his own entrepreneurial mark. A previous attempt had involved sourcing organic food from around

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“It’s been really, really bad”: How Latinx voters are being targeted by disinformation

The disinformation is “using religion as a pull to distort her record, drawing a real divisiveness between what it means to be, as you would call it, a good Christian or a good Catholic,” says Ashley Bryant of Pa’Lante, a watchdog group monitoring how Latinx voters are being targeted.  

Soon progressive groups were trying to combat the narrative, arguing that Barrett’s nomination would be bad for Catholic Latinos.

More recently comments by Joe Biden about making abortion the “law of the land” triggered a siege of coordinated disinformation across a number of Spanish language Facebook pages. Repetitive imagery and messaging on the subject are appearing across these groups, such as the false claim that Kamala Harris supports abortion up to minutes before birth. These smaller-scale coordinated actions can avoid the attention and scrutiny that might be given to viral posts or hashtags, making them harder to monitor and catch.

Vulnerabilities

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This spacecraft is being readied for a one-way mission to deflect an asteroid

In a clean room in Building 23 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, a spacecraft called DART was splayed open like a fractured, cubic egg. An instrument called a star tracker—which will, once DART is in deep space, ascertain which way is up—was mounted to the core, along with batteries and a variety of other sensors. The avionics system, DART’s central computer, was prominently attached to square, precision-machined panels that will form the sides, once the spacecraft is folded up. Wires ran from the computer to the radiosystem that DART will use to communicate with Earth. Gyroscopes and antennas were exposed. In a room next door, an experimental thruster system called NEXT-C was waiting its turn. Great bundles of thick tendrils wrapped in silver insulation hung down from the spacecraft and ran along the floor to the control room, where they connected to a

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Election result delays mean “the system is working” says cybersecurity chief

With an unprecedented number of Americans voting by mail this year, it may take longer than normal for results to come in this Election Day—including even unofficial results. Yet President Donald Trump’s disinformation campaign about election security continues to falsely suggest that any “delay” would be the result of fraud.

But government officials charged with protecting the election made it clear that slower-than-usual results should be totally expected.

“We are likely to see delays in the processing of the election,” says Brandon Wales, the executive director at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. “The truth is that nothing about this process changes when the election will be officially done.”

We may not have results on election night… [but] it doesn’t mean the process has been compromised, it means the system is working.”

“Everything you hear on election day has always been unofficial results,” he adds. “The vote isn’t

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Congress made a lousy case for breaking up Big Tech

The report also recommends requiring the FTC to collect more data and report on the state of competition in various sectors. And it says the FTC should conduct retrospectives to study whether its past decisions to approve or block mergers were correct. These kinds of studies are also long overdue and would make enforcement officials better at their jobs.

The FTC is currently engaged in a special review of every acquisition by the Big Five tech companies (those listed above, plus Microsoft) over the last decade. That process should be extended to other sectors and repeated on a regular basis.

Lastly, the report’s proposals for how to increase data portability might work very well for simple forms of data (such as a user’s social graph), which are easier to standardize. If consumers can easily take their data along with them, it will be easier for them to switch to new

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Live facial recognition is tracking kids suspected of being criminals

Now a new investigation from Human Rights Watch has found that not only are children regularly added to CONARC, but the database also powers a live facial recognition system in Buenos Aires deployed by the city government. This makes the system likely the first known instance of its kind being used to hunt down kids suspected of criminal activity.

“It’s completely outrageous,” says Hye Jung Han, a children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch, who led the research.

Buenos Aires first began trialing live facial recognition on April 24, 2019. Implemented without any public consultation, the system sparked immediate resistance. In October, a national civil rights organization filed a lawsuit to challenge it. In response, the government drafted a new bill—now going through legislative processes—that would legalize facial recognition in public spaces.

The system was designed to link to CONARC from the beginning. While CONARC itself doesn’t contain any photos

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