Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut has increased incentives to replace workers with robots, contradicting his campaign promise to restore well-paying manufacturing jobs in the nation's heartland. The Trump tax bill permits "U.S. corporations to expense their capital investment, through 2022. So, if a U.S. corporation buys a robot for $100 thousand, it can deduct the $100 thousand immediately to calculate its U.S. taxable income, rather than recover the $100 thousand over the life of the robot, as under prior law," Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a specialist in tax policy, wrote me by email. I have addressed the impact of robotics on Trump voters in previous columns, but today I want to explore these developments in greater detail as tools to gather and analyze information have improved. One of the most striking developments in recent decades is the ongoing decline in work force participation among men, from 88.7 percent in July, 1947 to 68.7 percent in September, 2010, according to the Federal Reserve.
This technology is anything but new, but it's never gotten as much attention as it does today. In recent years, AI has not only shown real technological progress but also shows how it can be used for political purposes. While the current AI race cannot really be compared to the nuclear race of yesteryear, we can nevertheless see that the major powers are seeking to control it in order to have an economic, social and military advantage over other countries. The USA and China are at the forefront of this race, of course, and the EU is well aware of this. It has therefore decided to react to better equip itself.
Next time you can't find the perfect angle for your selfie, just thank the universe you're not NASA's InSight lander. The spacecraft had to take 11 images with a camera attached to its robotic arm and then stitch them together to create its first self-portrait. InSight clearly took a cue from the Curiosity rover, which has years of experience taking composite selfies with the Martian landscape as its background. You can clearly see InSight's solar panels on full display in the photo, which was captured on December 6th, along with some of its science instruments. InSight touched down on Mars on November 26th after traveling through space for six months.
In science news around the world, China's largest research funding agency expresses support for the goals of Plan S, the push by European science funders for immediate open access to research publications. For the second year in a row, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are projected to hit a new high, growing 2.7% this year. NASA's Voyager 2 probe becomes only the second humanmade object to enter interstellar space. Empathy expert Tania Singer resigns as director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, after a commission confirmed allegations of bullying. Dozens of African researchers are denied visas for an artificial intelligence (AI) meeting in Montreal, Canada, even as the Canadian government takes steps to advance the country's standing in AI.
Technology researchers in China have been ordered to not travel to the US unless it is absolutely necessary, amid rising tensions between the two countries. Staff working in sensitive tech sectors were given the warning following the arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Canada, a source told the South China Morning Post. Workers at a research agency were also told to remove any sensitive data from laptops, mobile phones and other devices if travel to the US was essential. The warning comes after a similar order from US tech giant Cisco to some of its employees, which asked them the to any non-essential travel to China. Cisco has since said the email to its employees was "sent in error."
The future depends on connectivity. From artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to telemedicine and mixed reality to as yet undreamt technologies, all the things we hope will make our lives easier, safer, and healthier will require high-speed, always-on internet connections. The FCC regulates who can use which ranges, or bands, of frequencies to prevent users from interfering with each other's signals. Low-Band Frequencies Bands below 1 GHz traditionally used by broadcast radio and television as well as mobile networks; they easily cover large distances and travel through walls, but those are now so crowded that carriers are turning to the higher range of the spectrum. Mid-Band Spectrum The range of the wireless spectrum from 1 GHz to 6 GHz, used by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile networks, and many other applications.
Last year, at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a graduate student set up an artificial intelligence system based on Microsoft's facial-recognition tools, which he used to predict their emotional state. The idea, the university explained at a national education conference in February 2018, would be to allow teachers to gather real-time information on how their lessons were being received, in order to maximize "student engagement." Although the program was only tested as a short experiment, and was never adopted by the university, such a system has the potential to be rife with flaws and primed for abuse, warn experts at the research group AI Now. The St. Thomas proof-of-concept system is just one of a number of data points that AI Now--a group composed of tech employees from companies including Microsoft and Google, and affiliated with New York University--says exemplify the need for stricter regulation of artificial intelligence. The group's report, published Thursday, underscores the inherent dangers in using A.I. to do things like amplify surveillance in fields including finance and policing, and argues that accountability and oversight are necessities where this type of nascent technology is concerned.
MADE IN CHINA 2025: The Chinese initiative aims to create leading companies in fields like artificial intelligence, electric cars and robotics. The Trump administration says the government is unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign rivals. Along with disputes over China's handling of intellectual property, it's a significant contributor to trade tensions. The Wall Street Journal reported a revised plan would allow greater access for foreign companies to Chinese markets and investment.
Nasa's InSight lander has sent back its first full selfie while sitting on Mars. The robot has sent back stunning photos of the world that just became its home, as well as the first audio of the Martian wind. And now it has sent back a whole photo of itself, sat on the planet and getting ready to work. Or, more accurately, it sent back 11 photos that were stitched together to get a look at the lander as it is on the surface. "I'm feeling healthy, energized and whole. This is me on Mars."
The Foreign Ministry plans to hold Japanese-language tests in at least seven countries for a new type of work visa, in line with the introduction of the new visa category in April, sources have said. The ministry also aims to conclude bilateral agreements with those countries by March to share information related to criminal investigations, in an effort to shut out rogue labor brokers and protect workers' human rights, according to the sources. The Japanese-language tests will be administered in Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia for applicants seeking the easier of the two new visa categories, the sources said. The government is negotiating with one more country on the matter, and plans to expand the number of countries where the tests are conducted in stages, according to the sources. The moves indicate that workers from those countries will be among the first group to be accepted in Japan under the new system, for the time being, aside from interns transferring from the existing foreign trainee program.