Science & Technology

Trump Voters Don’t Sweat Robot Outsourcing

Inverse: “As long as the robots are American, we’re good.”

“You’d think this creeping automation, not creeping Sharia, would concern Trump’s base, but as long as robots are in America, they seemed comfortable with the idea.”

“A common theme in Trump’s rhetoric — which is not reflected in his policy — is that he is a champion of the common person. And looking to the future, there are a lot of low-paying jobs that could be turned over to machines.”

Trump Promises to Bring Back Manufacturing Jobs, but Robots Won’t Let Him

Tech Crunch: “For Americans struggling with stagnant wages, under- or un-employment, one of Donald Trump’s most appealing campaign promises was to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”

” But technology will make this promise nearly impossible to fulfill. Why? Because manufacturing jobs are increasingly done by robots, not people.”

“…when manufacturing returns to the states, jobs aren’t coming with it in high numbers. Automation has left workers in developing nations without employment, the report notes, and the U.S. faces the same prospect.”

The Future of American Transportation Is Driverless 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx spoke with The Verge about the future of autonomous vehicles.

Foxx: “Early indications are that the first few minutes of a ride in an autonomous car can be pretty scary to people who haven’t been in one before. But people get used to it quickly. People having real-life experiences with the technology will help in the long run. I’m sure that when the horse-and-buggy gave way to the automobile, there was probably an acceptance factor there as well. This is part of the progression of technology and transportation. I believe strongly that in the future, people will trust [autonomous cars]. Self-driving is coming to everything. It’s just a question of what the sequencing is. You’re going to see trucks that are driverless, and ships and trains that have self-driving features.”

Report: The Next President Will Face a Cybercrisis Within 100 Days

CNBC: “The next president will face a cybercrisis in the first 100 days of their presidency, research firm Forrester predicts in a new report.”

“The crisis could come as a result of hostile actions from another country or internal conflict over privacy and security legislation, said Forrester analyst Amy DeMartine, lead author of the firm’s top cybersecurity risks for 2017 report, due to be made public Tuesday.”

Tesla’s Stunning New Solar Roof Tiles for Homes

Tech Crunch: “Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.”

“Of course, there’s the matter of price: Tesla’s roof cost less than the full cost of a roof and electricity will be competitive or better than the cost of a traditional roof combined with the cost of electricity from the grid, Musk said. Tesla declined to provide specific pricing at the moment, since it will depend on a number of factor including installation specifics on a per home basis.”

Mobile Website Views Surpassed Desktop Views for the First Time Ever in October 2016

Quartz: “October was the first month ever when more web pages were viewed on mobile and tablet devices than on desktop and laptop computers, according to the web analytics firm StatCounter.”

“While this doesn’t necessarily mean more people are using mobile devices than computers, or that people are using their mobile devices more than their computers, it does for certain mean people are viewing more individual webpages on mobile browsers than they are on desktop versions.

How One University Used Big Data To Boost Graduation Rates

NPR: “…a happy story cited in the report comes from Georgia State University, a large public university in Atlanta with more than 24,000 undergrads. Of those students, 60 percent are nonwhite, and many are from working-class and first-generation families.”

“Working with the help of an outside consulting firm, EAB, GSU analyzed 2.5 million grades earned by students in courses over 10 years to create a list of factors that hurt chances for graduation. EAB then built an early-warning system, which GSU calls GPS, for Graduation and Progression Success. The system is updated daily and includes more than 700 red flags aimed at helping advisers keep students on track to graduation.”

“The results have been dramatic.”

Scientists Taught a Robot to Smoke to Fight Lung Disease

Wyss Institute: “While it is well known that cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung disease, and a key exacerbating factor for patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it has not been possible to effectively model its deleterious effects on human lungs under normal breathing conditions.”

“Leveraging their previously developed human lung small airway-on-a-chip model for inflammatory disorders including COPD and asthma, the Wyss Institute’s team led by Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., designed a smoking instrument that integrates with the airway chips and faithfully recapitulates smoking behavior with cells derived from healthy people and patients with COPD.”

How Uber Thinks Its Aircraft Service Will Work

Inverse: “In less than ten years, you won’t have to worry about your Uber getting stuck in traffic — because it will probably be transporting you through the air. Uber announced its plan Wednesday to launch ‘Elevate,’ a system of fully electric aircrafts that could get you from San Francisco to Silicon Valley for the price of an UberX. Uber first announced its plans to launch a flying vehicle within ten years in September, but this is the first time they’ve released any sort of detailed plan for the venture.”

Why Do Science Issues Seem to Divide Us Along Party Lines?

The Conversation: “In 2015, researchers asked 2,000 registered voters how deferential they felt politicians should be to science when creating public policy on a variety of issues. On a 10-point scale, participants ranked whether politicians should follow the advice of scientists (10), consider scientific findings in conjunction with other factors (5) or ignore scientific findings completely (1). Issues included climate change, legalizing drug usage, fetal viability, regulating nuclear power and teaching evolution, among other topics.”

“Breaking down responses based on political leanings did reveal some partisan differences. When it comes to deferring to scientific experts on policy issues, conservatives and independents look a lot alike. Averaged across issues, independents said policymakers should weigh science and other factors more or less evenly (5.84), only slightly more than conservatives did (5.58). Liberals, on the other hand, expressed much higher rates of deference to science – across issues, they averaged 7.46.”

“One area in which political beliefs do have an impact is the kinds of scientists that liberals and conservatives are likely to trust. A 2013 study of 798 participants found that conservatives put more faith in scientists involved in economic production – food scientists, industrial chemists and petroleum geologists, for instance – than in scientists involved in areas associated with regulation, such as public health and environmental science. The opposite was true for liberals. Again, this suggests that it’s not simply a matter of conservatives being skeptical of science in general; there’s a much more nuanced relationship between political leanings and trust in scientific expertise.”

Super-Cheap Driverless Cabs to Kick Mass Transit to the Curb

Bloomberg Tech: “The self-driving vehicles being pioneered by Tesla Motors Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and others are poised to dramatically lower the cost of taxis, potentially making them cheaper than buses or subways, according to a joint report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Co. Having no driver to pay could reduce taxi prices to 67 cents a mile by 2025, less than a quarter of the cost in Manhattan today, the report found.”

How Digital Readiness Affects Job Retraining for Labor Market Growth 

Stuart Brotman: “The importance of workforce retraining is underscored in a recent report from the Pew Research Center. Its analysis of government jobs data found that for the past several decades, employment has been rising faster in jobs requiring higher levels of preparation – that is, more education, training and experience.”

“Only 17 percent of adults in the Pew Center survey were characterized as ‘digitally ready’ active learners who are confident in their ability to use digital tools to pursue e-learning. They also utilize digital outlets, such as online courses or extensive online research, to a significantly greater extent than the population at large.”

“Policymakers should look at these separate Pew Center analyses in tandem—two critical variables in any equation for sustainable job growth. Unless many more adults move into the ‘digitally ready’ category for e-learning, necessary job retraining may not benefit workers in labor sectors that are being left behind.”

Target to Debut Vertical Farms into a Few Stores This Spring

Business Insider: “In January, Target launched the Food + Future CoLab, a collaboration with design firm Ideo and the MIT Media Lab. One area of the team’s research focuses on vertical farming, and Greg Shewmaker, one of Target’s entrepreneurs-in-residence at the CoLab, says they are planning to test the technology in a few Target stores to see how involved customers actually want to be with their food.”

“During the in-store trials, people could potentially harvest their own produce from the vertical farms, or just watch as staff members pick greens and veggies to stock on the shelves.”

How America Is Squandering Its Innovative Potential

Brookings Institution: “…we aren’t yet playing with the whole team. That was a clear takeaway from a paper released this summer, from a team led by Alex Ball and Raj Chetty, that examines the lifecycles of 1.2 million U.S. inventors (defined as patent holders or applicants).”

“Overall, children who are white, rich, male, and exposed to invention early in life are much more likely to invent than children who are non-white, poor, female, and socially and geographically isolated from innovation.”

“…this report is worrying for two reasons. First, it reinforces a growing body of evidence that United States remains far from providing equality of opportunity to all kids—in this case the opportunity to share in the fruits of invention—which is itself a collective moral failure.”

“Second, the constrained supply of inventors in the United States should worry anyone engaged in debates about the country’s innovation engine and future productivity. Clearly, America wastes a lot of potential talent by not—to extend the president’s metaphor—pulling more inventors off the bench in certain communities. Or, as the authors ask: ‘How many ‘lost Einsteins’ could there be due to inequality of opportunity?'”