This Week’s Awesome Stories From Around the Web (Through June 18th)

FUTURE OF WORK: Basic Income: A Sellout of the American Dream
David H. Freedman | MIT Technology Review
“What’s not to like about free money? …Well, there’s the fact that a universal basic income could add as much as $2 trillion in annual expenses to the U.S. budget. Then there’s the question of whether such a program might disconnect large swaths of our population from the positive aspects of working for a living—a potentially toxic side effect. And finally, there’s little convincing evidence that large-scale technological unemployment is actually happening or will happen in the immediate future.”

Daniel Oberhaus | Motherboard
“Since memes and emoji are increasingly a part of what we consider human language (an emoji was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2015, after all), it was only a matter of time before someone applied neural networks to emoji to teach machines how to use them…Dango isn’t just scanning your message looking for the word ‘horse’ and then recommending the horse emoji. Rather, it is also taking into account the meaning of your message and other relevant factors, such as the fact that the eggplant emoji has, well, other meanings besides ‘eggplant.’”

ROBOTICS: What a Smell Looks Like
Nsikan Akpan | Scientific American
“This science squad has a singular mission: Unravel how the oldest guidance system in the world, smell, works. And by doing so, the team aims to teach robots how to smell too…When police officers need to find a bomb or a person trapped in an avalanche, they rely on canines or other animals, which put those creatures at risk. Crimaldi and his colleagues want to outsource this risk to robots by teaching them how to smell.”

TRANSPORTATION: Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying-Car Factories
Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone | Bloomberg
“Lone-wolf inventors have tried to build them [flying cars] for decades, with little to show for their efforts besides disappointed investors and depleted bank accounts. Those failures have done little to lessen the yearning: In the nerd hierarchy of needs, the flying car is up there with downloadable brains and a working holodeck. But better materials, autonomous navigation systems, and other technical advances have convinced a growing body of smart, wealthy, and apparently serious people that within the next few years we’ll have a self-flying car that takes off and lands vertically—or at least a small, electric, mostly autonomous commuter plane.”

INTERNET & SOCIETY: Who Controls the Internet?
Walter Frick | Harvard Business Review
“What if the decentralized model that Greenstein outlines is going away? After all, today’s internet is clearly dominated by what Farhad Manjoo, of the New York Times, calls the Frightful Five: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google (now a unit of Alphabet), and Microsoft…It would be a stretch to call Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, or Satya Nadella the ‘manager of the internet.’ But the companies these people lead do represent a centralization of power, and each of them will have a disproportionate say in the network’s future.”

BIG DATA: ‘Big Data Is People!’
Rebecca Lemov | Aeon
“Most definitions of big data don’t take account of its inherent humanness, nor do they grapple meaningfully with its implications for the relationship between technology and changing ways of defining ourselves…A feeling that big data is inhuman reinforces the sense that it cannot be modified or regulated; it is too often regarded as a raw force of nature that simply must be harnessed…The situation boils down, really, to this: to unwittingly accept big data’s hype is to be passive in the face of big data’s mantle of inevitability. Awareness is the only hope.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Alison E. Berman
Alison E. Berman
Alison tells the stories of purpose-driven leaders and is fascinated by various intersections of technology and society. When not keeping a finger on the pulse of all things Singularity University, you'll likely find Alison in the woods sipping coffee and reading philosophy (new book recommendations are welcome).
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