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.
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.
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."
In the popular Netflix series Ozark, money launderer Marty Byrde expends a lot of time and energy mitigating the risks that relate to his work, including his drug cartel client, a pair of farmers, the local pastor, and his own employee and her relatives--but financial regulators never appear to be a blip on his radar. Would the series turn out differently if Marty's bank had used artificial intelligence to examine his deposits? The feds may be hoping for a plot twist. Recently, several federal agencies jointly encouraged banks to consider developing new technologies, particularly AI technologies, in order to help protect the financial system against money laundering and terrorist financing. Banks are now encouraged to "consider, evaluate, and, where appropriate, responsibly implement innovative approaches to meet their Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering compliance obligations" by agencies including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
The following news article is adapted from a press release issued by Caltech, in partnership with the MIT School of Science, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Facing the certainty of a changing climate coupled with the uncertainty that remains in predictions of how it will change, scientists and engineers from across the country are teaming up to build a new type of climate model that is designed to provide more precise and actionable predictions. Leveraging recent advances in the computational and data sciences, the comprehensive effort capitalizes on vast amounts of data that are now available and on increasingly powerful computing capabilities both for processing data and for simulating the Earth system. The new model will be built by a consortium of researchers led by Caltech, in partnership with MIT; the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS); and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which Caltech manages for NASA. The consortium, dubbed the Climate Modeling Alliance (CliMA), plans to fuse Earth observations and high-resolution simulations into a model that represents important small-scale features, such as clouds and turbulence, more reliably than existing climate models.
This article was originally published as a TechRepublic cover story. Marcus Hall was nine years old when he first drove a tractor on his family's sprawling Iowa farm, eschewing Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars for long rides on heavy machinery. Growing up on a multigenerational family farm is common in an agricultural state like Iowa, where nearly 27 million acres are devoted to cropland--out of the 35 million acres that make up the state. Hall grew up with all the trappings of a future farmer, but a penchant for technology led him down a more experimental path--to the test farm of ag equipment giant John Deere. As manager of the test farm, Hall gets to run field trials of John Deere's high-tech farm equipment before it goes to market. "I just enjoy being out on the tractor," says Hall. "Plus, it's fun being part of this type of technology and the leading edge of what's out there." Download this article as a PDF (free registration required). It's a warm, breezy day in late May 2018, when we meet up with Hall at John Deere's test facility in Bondurant, IA. The farm sits on an unassuming patch of land framed by two-lane roads.