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The emergence of science as a robust and legitimate method of truth-seeking was not visible in real time to those directly responsible, nor to the people whose power would later be upended by its distressing revelations. The slow unfolding of new exponential trends is always obscured by the immediately obvious, always concealed behind the apparent inevitability of the present. Only at a later, accelerating stage does the true nature of a different paradigm reveals itself - impatient and forceful, ambitious and menacing to the old order. 
Populist authoritarianism is being fueled at a global scale by exactly this kind of disloyal tendencies: the advent of elegant pattern-recognition math, the scalability of analog computing, the abundance of cheap disposable labor.
History teaches us that when these deep tides finally come to shore, they will disturb the surface: today's fearsome conspiracy against the weak will come up against a fresh and unforeseen configuration of power. The unapologetic assault on the planet and its resources will be met with asymmetrical resistance, emboldened by the hopeful technologies of tomorrow. The loser now will be later to win.

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State of AI Report 2020

on Oct 04, 2020 11:39 am

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    1. Now in its third year, the report features invited contributions from a range of well-known and up-and-coming companies and research groups. The Report considers the following key dimensions:
  1. Research: Technology breakthroughs and capabilities.
  2. Talent: Supply, demand and concentration of AI talent.
  3. Industry: Areas of commercial application for AI and its business impact.
  4. Politics: Regulation of AI, its economic implications and the emerging geopolitics of AI.
  5. Predictions: What we believe will happen and a performance review to keep us honest.

Inside Facebook’s quadruple play: How the company is finally melding its apps

on Oct 01, 2020 10:39 pm

Stan Chudnovsky doesn’t remember when CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives began talking about treating the company’s portfolio of services more like, well, a portfolio.

With some of the most thorny aspects of the integration plan not yet realized—such as end-to-end encryption spanning all of Facebook’s messaging products—this week’s announcements are just a start. But they still represent a meaningful pivot. “The first decade of the company was really focused on the more public space—feed, stories, large groups,” says Chris Cox, the longtime Facebook product czar who left the company shortly after Zuckerberg published his post, then rejoined as chief product officer last June. With the features being revealed this week, “if we’re successful, we’re a few [percentage points] of the way there in the long run, because we have so much more building to do.”

How the 2.47 billion people who use Facebook’s portfolio of services will react to these changes—and more to come—is unknown even to Facebook.

EU companies selling surveillance tools to China’s human rights abusers

on Sep 29, 2020 08:39 pm

European tech companies risk fuelling widespread human rights abuses by selling digital surveillance technology to China’s public security agencies, a new Amnesty International investigation reveals.

Amnesty International found that three companies based in France, Sweden and the Netherlands sold digital surveillance systems, such as facial recognition technology and network cameras, to key players of the Chinese mass surveillance apparatus. In some cases, the export was directly for use in China’s indiscriminate mass surveillance programmes, with the risk of being used against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups throughout the country.

Most EU governments, including France and Sweden, are resisting calls to strengthen export rules to include strong human rights safeguards in biometric surveillance technology, an area that European companies dominate. Germany, which has held the EU presidency since 1 July, and the Netherlands have both expressed the need for stronger human rights safeguards in the past but have so far failed to address this successfully at EU level.

“Europe’s biometric surveillance industry is out of control. Our revelations of sales to Chinese security agencies and research institutions that support them are just the tip of the iceberg of a multi-billion Euro industry that is flourishing by selling its wares to human rights abusers, with few safeguards against end-use abuses,” said Merel Koning, Senior Policy Officer, Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

‘We pick your food’: migrant workers speak out from Spain’s ‘Plastic Sea’

on Sep 27, 2020 08:39 pm


The tens of thousands of migrant workers working in the province are vital to the Spanish economy and pan-European food supply chains. Throughout the pandemic, they have held essential worker status, labouring in the fields while millions across the world sheltered inside.

Here, in the middle of Spain’s Mar del Plastico (Plastic Sea), the 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres) of farms and greenhouses in the region of Andalucía known as “Europe’s garden”, many of El Barranquete’s inhabitants don’t have electricity, running water or sanitation.

In August, the Observer interviewed more than 45 migrants employed as farm workers in Almería. A joint supply chain investigation by Ethical Consumer magazine has linked many of these workers to the supply chains of UK supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and Aldi.

In response to the investigation, the British Retail Consortium – members of which include Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and Aldi – released a statement calling on the Spanish government to launch an inquiry.

Commenting on the Observer’s findings, Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty, says the situation facing migrant workers in southern Spain is a human tragedy.

The future of humanitarian action: Decolonizing humanitarian aid

on Sep 27, 2020 11:39 am

There has never been a more important time to discuss the future of humanitarian action. The number and severity of humanitarian crises are growing around the world. More people are displaced from their homes than at any other time since World War II. And with a rapidly changing climate, more migration, conflict, pandemics, and natural disasters are expected.

In the first of these conversations, we explore what it takes to decolonize humanitarian aid with those who are leading the work in the U.S. and globally. We will speak with Edgar Villanueva, author of “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom To Heal Divides and Restore Balance,” Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, and Kennedy Odede, co-founder and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities, about the colonialist mentality pervading humanitarian aid and how to reform it.

Venture capital floods into food-tech

on Sep 27, 2020 11:39 am


“I was getting laughed out of town when I said I was going to invest in a plant-based burger in 2011,” Mr Kaul said. “I think people really thought I had lost it.”

Less than a decade later, Impossible is valued at more than $4bn and has its animal-free meat products in Burger King and Starbucks. Beyond Meat — a close competitor, which also raised its first round of venture capital in 2011 — has quintupled in value since an initial public offering last year and now commands an $9.6bn market capitalisation.

For investors, these businesses also represent a new approach to tackling climate change and pursuing sustainable development. Mr Kaul’s investment in Impossible followed a push by many venture capitalists —including Mr Kaul — into so-called clean energy tech companies, which have largely failed to deliver the hoped-for returns.  The difference this time is that consumers have shown up in droves, fuelling projections of 15.8 per cent annual growth in the plant-based meat alternatives market until 2027, according to a Polaris Market Research analysis.

“We learned in cleantech that people care about the environment, but they don’t want to pay to care about the environment,” Mr Kaul says. “But they will pay to care about food.”

The State of Climate Tech 2020

on Sep 27, 2020 10:39 am

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As the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold of the world, the question of whether venture capital, and early stage investing more broadly, is backing and scaling the innovations our world really needs has never been more pertinent. Life science and biotech investing is an asset class perhaps most resilient and relevant to the short-term impact of COVID-19, but there is another impact-critical investment area that is emerging as an increasingly important investment frontier: climate tech.

This research represents a first-of-its-kind analysis of the state of global climate tech investing.

What is climate tech investing?

“Climate tech” encompasses a broad set of sectors which tackle the challenge of decarbonising the global economy, with the aim of reaching net zero emissions before 2050. This includes low-to-negative carbon approaches to cut key sectoral sources of emissions across energy, built environment, mobility, heavy industry, and food and land use; plus cross-cutting areas, such as carbon capture and storage, or enabling better carbon management, such as through transparency and accounting.

The Age of Electric Cars Is Dawning Ahead of Schedule

on Sep 27, 2020 10:39 am

Battery prices are dropping faster than expected. Analysts are moving up projections of when an electric vehicle won’t need government incentives to be cheaper than a gasoline model.

As car sales collapsed in Europe because of the pandemic, one category grew rapidly: electric vehicles. One reason is that purchase prices in Europe are coming tantalizingly close to the prices for cars with gasoline or diesel engines.

As electric cars become more mainstream, the automobile industry is rapidly approaching the tipping point when, even without subsidies, it will be as cheap, and maybe cheaper, to own a plug-in vehicle than one that burns fossil fuels. The carmaker that reaches price parity first may be positioned to dominate the segment.

Designed in Minecraft, built IRL

on Sep 26, 2020 07:39 pm

In Gaza, citizens are imagining what public spaces could be, and then actually building them.

Before 2018, Hamdan had certainly never played a video game. That year, she learned to play Minecraft, the wildly popular computer game in which players make things out of blocks — but not purely for fun. In 2012, U.N.-Habitat, Microsoft, and Mojang, the company that made Minecraft, teamed up on Block by Block, a venture that aims to improve marginalized areas by actively engaging community members in public projects. According to the U.N., more than 17,000 people have participated in Block by Block initiatives in around 100 different countries — including three projects in Gaza — improving hundreds of thousands of lives in the process.

Using Minecraft’s building blocks, community groups design a virtual public space, later made into concrete reality. From parks to beaches and even streets themselves, these spaces are a key indicator of the health and sustainability of cities. “If made safe, accessible, and welcoming, they can be drivers of civic cohesion, biodiversity, livelihood, and economic growth,” Christelle Lahoud, 30, a program management officer for U.N.-Habitat, told Rest of World. “If not, we tend to see more crime and pollution, reduced productivity, and general social disparities.”


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