Mother Jones


What Siri Says When New Zealanders Ask About Sex

Mother Jones

"Is it OK to put a jade egg in my vagina?" A team of New Zealand researchers posed these questions and 47 others to digital assistants to determine how effectively Siri et al. could answer questions on sex. The informal study, which was not peer-reviewed, was published online Wednesday by the medical journal BMJ. Three researchers used laptops to type out questions to Google.co.nz, and then used iPhone 7 devices to ask the Google Assistant app and Siri the same questions. The responses were rated by quality, with expert sources like universities and hospitals ranked most highly.


Study: AI Really Could Be a Breakthrough for Cancer Detection

Mother Jones

If you haven't lost your job to a computer yet, you probably will. Experts predict that robots will be folding laundry for us in the next five years, driving trucks in the next 10, and performing surgery in the next 40. And, they predict, they'll be doing it better than humans. This could lead to a massive shift in our economy, setting off an "era of mass joblessness and mass poverty," as Mother Jones' Kevin Drum recently reported. But what if technology being able to perform tasks better than humans also meant we'd be saving more lives?


A Lot of "Ethical Consumers" Are Going to Make Really Unethical Shopping Choices

Mother Jones

As a person living in the 21st century, it's almost inevitable that you've had the seamless, fast, and hassle-free experience of shopping online: a few clicks and you're done without ever needing to interact with anyone, and then your items can show up at your door in as little as a day. But as the holiday season ramps up, it's a good time to remember that there's actually a whole lot of human labor behind that fast and easy click. While we at Mother Jones recently reported on how robots will one day take these jobs, they haven't taken over just yet. Just consider a great story last week from Gizmodo's Bryan Menegus shedding light on a mysterious program known as Amazon Flex: a "nearly invisible workforce" of independent contractors charged with delivering the "last mile" of Amazon orders from a local storage facility to the customer's door. As Menegus explains, "It's a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws."


We Already Have a Solution for the Robot Apocalypse. It's 200 Years Old.

Mother Jones

Fast-food workers, cashiers, cooks, delivery people and their supporters held a rally outside New York City Hall on May 24, 2017.Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press/Zuma From the window of his university office in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, philosophy professor Philippe Van Parijs--considered by many to be Europe's most prominent advocate for the idea that the state should provide a regular income to every citizen--can see the mailbox where he sent off invitations to the first "basic income" conference more than 30 years ago. "I'm quite amazed by the seed we threw on the ground now," he says. After decades of obscurity, the idea is suddenly in fashion. Politicians around the world are interested and a handful of governments, such as Finland and the Canadian province of Ontario, are planning or considering basic-income pilot projects. But the idea of basic income has been around for more than 200 years, rising on waves of political and economic turmoil only to disappear in calmer times.


Trump Administration Guts Obamacare Birth Control Rule

Mother Jones

The Trump administration officially issued a new rule Friday that weakens the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring employers to provide free birth control as part of health insurance plans. To do so, they had to file paperwork with the government indicating their objection, in turn triggering separate contraceptive coverage for employees provided directly by the insurance company. The Trump administration's new rule expands this exemption, allowing virtually any organization, not just a religious one, to opt out of the mandate if they feel contraception coverage violates their religious beliefs or "moral convictions"--a much broader (and murkier) standard than before. But by eliminating the requirement that objecting groups inform the government when they opt out of birth control coverage, it's possible Trump's new rule will provide a defacto end to this litigation.



Without Mexican Workers, California's Ag Industry Is Relentlessly Mechanizing

Mother Jones

Immigration from Mexico--both legal and illegal--has been declining for over a decade. Driscoll's is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won't let photographers within telephoto range of it. Vast areas of the Central Valley have switched from labor intensive crops such as grapes or vegetables to almonds, which are mechanically shaken from the tree. But if Donald Trump does build a wall and cut down substantially on illegal immigration, it's unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on low-wage native workers.


"My Guilt Will Never Go Away"

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Think of scenes from Tim O'Brien's iconic Vietnam War book, The Things They Carried, William Manchester's World War II odyssey, Goodbye Darkness, William Styron's Sophie's Choice, or films like William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives and Oliver Stone's Platoon. She was perhaps typical when she told the makers of the documentary film National Bird that, in helping carry out drone strikes which killed people across the globe by remote control, "I lost part of my humanity." This reality led me, as my book developed, to interview now-elderly Japanese who had experienced World War II as children. The Department of Veterans Affairs now acknowledges moral injury and its effects, and in 2014 Syracuse University created the Moral Injury Project to bring together vets, doctors, and chaplains to work on how to deal with it.


Somebody Built a Robot that Automatically Burns Donald Trump's Tweets in Real-Time

Mother Jones

As President Donald Trump continues to ignore bipartisan pleas to quit his Twitter habit, a newly-built robot is being tasked to confront each of the president's social media missives in a way many Americans would likely find cathartic: by printing all of Trump's tweets in real-time, only to immediately set them on fire. The accompanying Twitter account, "Burned Your Tweet," records each ignited tweet and sends them to the @RealDonaldTrump account. With Trump's Twitter rants unlikely to end anytime soon--yet another broken promise--be sure to enjoy these rare moments of relief.


Botched 911 Call in Tamir Rice Case Results in 8-Day Suspension

Mother Jones

Recordings of the initial 911 call and the radio dispatch to officers, released by the Cleveland police department in November [2014] showed that the details about Rice's suspected age and fake gun never reached [Officers] Loehmann and Garmback. But Hollinger refused to answer investigators' questions about why she did not input the details about Rice's suspected age and possibly fake gun, per the advice of her union-provided attorney. Hollinger declined to comment to Mother Jones about her role in the case, citing the ongoing investigation and the Cleveland police department's "stringent rules" about making public statements. Although a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in the shooting, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the two face an ongoing internal investigation into their conduct.