Government

Could We Fund a Universal Basic Income with Universal Basic Assets? (fastcompany.com) 404

Universal Basic Incomes aren't really the issue, argues Fast Company staff writer Ben Schiller. "It's how you find $2 trillion to pay for it." One answer may come in the form of "universal basic assets" (UBA). UBA can mean a fund of publicly-owned infrastructure or revenue streams -- like Alaska's Permanent Fund which pays residents up to $2,000 a year from state oil taxes. Or, it can mean actual assets that drive down the cost of living, like tuition-free education and free public broadband. There are lots of proposals going around now that fall into these two camps...

Entrepreneur Peter Barnes has called for the creation of a Sky Trust that would both limit the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide revenue from carbon taxes. These "carbon dividends" solve two problems at once: income inequality and climate change. He would also tax corporations for using natural resources, on the thinking that the atmosphere, minerals and fresh water around us represent a "joint inheritance." He would also tax speculative financial transactions and use of the electromagnetic spectrum. The U.K. think-tank IPPR recently proposed a similar "sovereign wealth fund owned by and run in the interests of citizens." It would finance the fund with "a scrip tax of up to 3% requiring businesses to issue equity to the government, or pay a tax of equivalent value," sales of land owned by the U.K. monarchy, and higher inheritance taxes.

Blockchain can help. Blockchain technology could offer a way to divide publicly-owned infrastructure so it's genuinely publicly-owned. We could issue tokenized securities in the assets around us giving everyone a stake in their environment. Then they could trade those tokens on exchanges, like they were cryptocurrencies, or use the tokens as collateral on loans.

Education

100 Top Colleges Vow To Enroll More Low-Income Students (npr.org) 96

Research shows that just 3 percent of high-achieving, low-income students attend America's most selective colleges. And, it's not that these students just aren't there -- every year tens of thousands of top students who don't come from wealthy families never even apply to elite colleges. Universities are taking note -- and banding together under something called the American Talent Initiative -- a network backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute and the research firm Ithaka S+R. To join the club, schools have to graduate 70 percent of their students in six years -- a qualification that leaves just under 300 schools in the U.S. eligible. Nearly a third of those schools -- exactly 100 -- have signed on. Their goal? Enroll 50,000 additional low- and moderate-income students by 2025. From a report: Each school has its own goals, too -- many want to increase the number of Pell Grant students on campus, others aim to improve graduation rates -- but they're all on board to share strategies, learn from each other's missteps and provide data to monitor their progress.
Businesses

One Laptop Per Child's $100 Laptop Was Going To Change the World -- Then it All Went Wrong (theverge.com) 269

Adi Robertson, reporting for The Verge: In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte's new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), dubbed "the green machine" or simply "the $100 laptop." And it was like nothing that Negroponte's audience -- at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe -- had ever seen. After UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered a glowing introduction, Negroponte explained exactly why. The $100 laptop would have all the features of an ordinary computer but require so little electricity that a child could power it with a hand crank.

[...] But OLPC's overwhelming focus on high-tech hardware worried some skeptics, including participants in the Tunis summit. One attendee said she'd rather have "clean water and real schools" than laptops, and another saw OLPC as an American marketing ploy. "Under the guise of non-profitability, hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments," he complained. In the tech world, people were skeptical of the laptop's design, too. Intel chairman Craig Barrett scathingly dubbed OLPC's toy-like prototype "the $100 gadget," and Bill Gates hated the screen in particular. "Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text," he told reporters.

[...] After announcing "the $100 Laptop," OLPC had one job to do: make a laptop that cost $100. As the team developed the XO-1, they slowly realized that this wasn't going to happen. According to Bender, OLPC pushed the laptop's cost to a low of $130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Its price rose to around $180, and even then, the design had major tradeoffs. [...]

Education

Former Senior VP of Apple Tony Fadell Says Company Needs To Tackle Smartphone Addiction (wired.co.uk) 75

In an op-ed published on Wired, former SVP at Apple Tony Fadell argues that smartphone manufacturers -- Apple in particular -- need to do a better job of educating users about how often they use their mobile phones, and the resulting dangers that overuse might bring about. An excerpt: Take healthy eating as an analogy: we have advice from scientists and nutritionists on how much protein and carbohydrate we should include in our diet; we have standardised scales to measure our weight against; and we have norms for how much we should exercise. But when it comes to digital "nourishment", we don't know what a "vegetable", a "protein" or a "fat" is. What is "overweight" or "underweight"? What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in -- as with nutritional labelling. Interestingly, we already have digital-detox clinics in the US. I have friends who have sent their children to them. But we need basic tools to help us before it comes to that. I believe that for Apple to maintain and even grow its customer base it can solve this problem at the platform level, by empowering users to understand more about how they use their devices. To do this, it should let people track their digital activity in detail and across all devices.
Businesses

Firms Relabelling Low-Skilled Jobs As Apprenticeships, Says Report (bbc.com) 58

Fast food giants, coffee shops and retailers are relabelling low-skilled jobs as apprenticeships and gaining subsidies for training, a report says. BBC: The study by centre-right think tank Reform says many firms have rebranded existing roles after being obliged to contribute cash to on-the-job training. It adds that 40% of government-approved apprenticeship standards do not meet a traditional definition of them. The government says "quality" is at the heart of its apprenticeship reforms. As part of the changes, it introduced an apprenticeship levy on organisations paying more than $4.3m in salaries a year. They have to pay 0.5% of their wages total into a "digital account" held by HMRC. They then "spend" these contributions on apprenticeship training delivered by registered providers. They can also get back up to 90% of the cost of training. But they are also entitled to pay apprentices lower than the standard minimum wage.
China

Trade War Or Not, China is Closing the Gap on US in Technology IP Race (reuters.com) 149

China's rising investment in research and expansion of its higher education system mean that it is fast closing the gap with the United States in intellectual property and the struggle to be the No.1 global technology power, according to patent experts. From a report: While U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of punitive tariffs on high-tech U.S. exports could slow Beijing's momentum, it won't turn back the tide, they say. Washington's allegation that the Chinese have engaged in intellectual property theft over many years -- which is denied by Beijing -- is a central reason for the worsening trade conflict between the U.S. and China. Forecasts for how long it will take for Beijing to close the technological gap vary -- though several patent specialists say it could happen in the next decade.

And China is already leapfrogging ahead in a couple of areas. "With the number of scientists China is training every year it will eventually catch up, regardless of what the U.S. does," said David Shen, head of IP for China at global law firm Allen & Overy. Indeed, IP lawyers now see President Xi Jinping's pledge earlier this week to protect foreign IP rights as projecting confidence in China's position as a leading innovator in sectors such as telecommunications and online payments, as well as its ability to catch up in other areas.

Advertising

Tim Cook Says Ads That Follow You Online Are 'Creepy' (cnet.com) 181

In a wide-ranging interview with MSNBC and Recode, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that everyone should know how much data they're sharing and what can be inferred about us from that information. He added that privacy "is a human right" and said he's worried about how advertisers and others can abuse access to our data. "To me it's creepy when I look at something and all of a sudden it's chasing me all the way across the web," Cook said. "I don't like that." CNET reports: The comments came as part of a wide-ranging interview between Cook, MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Recode's Kara Swisher. MSNBC broadcast the special, named "Revolution: Apple changing the world" at 5 p.m. PT on Friday. The interview was taped the day after Apple's education event in Chicago, where the company introduced a new 9.7-inch iPad and tools for teachers. The two publications released some early clips and comments from Cook over the past couple of weeks. That included remarks he made about Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cook noted that Apple purposely chose not to make "a ton of money" off its customers' data and that Facebook failed to effectively regulate itself, prompting a need for government intervention. Along with Facebook and its privacy issues, Cook talked up DACA and immigration, tax reform, the changing job landscape and the need for everyone to learn coding, among other topics.
Education

Berkeley Offers Its Data Science Course Online For Free (berkeley.edu) 33

In a news bulletin, University of California, Berkeley announces that its "Foundations of Data Science" course is "being offered free online this spring for the first time through the campus's online education hub, edX." From the report: The course -- Data 8X (Foundations of Data Science) -- covers everything from testing hypotheses, applying statistical inferences, visualizing distributions and drawing conclusions, all while coding in Python and using real-world data sets. One lesson might take economic data from different countries over the years to track global economic growth. The next might use a data set of cell samples to create a classification algorithm that can diagnose breast cancer. (Learn more from a video on the Berkeley data science website.) The online program is based on the Foundations of Data Science course that Berkeley launched on campus in 2015 and now has more than 1,000 students enrolling every semester. The Foundations of Data Science edX Professional Certificate program is a sequence of three five-week courses taught by three winners of Berkeley's top teaching honor, the Distinguished Teaching Award: DeNero, statistics professor Ani Adhikari and computer science professor David Wagner. The first of the three parts has already started (9 a.m. on April 2), but enrollment will remain open after the course begins. Furthermore, anyone in the world can enroll for free but those who want to earn the certificate will need to pay.
Advertising

Facebook Demands ID Verifications For Big Pages, 'Issue' Ad Buyers (techcrunch.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook is looking to self-police by implementing parts of the proposed Honest Ads Act before the government tries to regulate it. To fight fake news and election interference, Facebook will require the admins of popular Facebook Pages and advertisers buying political or "issue" ads on "debated topics of national legislative importance" like education or abortion to verify their identity and location. Those that refuse, are found to be fraudulent or are trying to influence foreign elections will have their Pages prevented from posting to the News Feed or their ads blocked. Meanwhile, Facebook plans to use this information to append a "Political Ad" label and "Paid for by" information to all election, politics and issue ads. Users can report any ads they think are missing the label, and Facebook will show if a Page has changed its name to thwart deception. Facebook started the verification process this week; users in the U.S. will start seeing the labels and buyer info later this spring, and Facebook will expand the effort to ads around the world in the coming months.
Communications

Microsoft Touts Breakthrough In Making Chatbots More Conversational (windowscentral.com) 101

In a blog post today, Microsoft said that it has created what it believes is the "first technological breakthrough" toward making conversations with chatbots more like speaking to another person. Windows Central reports: Microsoft says that it has figured out how to make chatbots talk and listen at the same time, allowing them to operate in "full duplex," to use telecommunications jargon. The company says this allows chatbots or assistants to have a flowing conversation with humans, much more akin to how people talk to one another. That stands in contrast to how digital assistants and bots currently work, where only one side can talk at any given time. The technology is already up and running in Xiaolce, Microsoft's AI chatbot currently operating in China. Using "full duplex voice sense," as Microsoft calls it, Xiaolce can more quickly predict what the person it is speaking to will say. "That helps her make decisions about both how and when to respond to someone who is chatting with her, a skill set that is very natural to people but not yet common in chatbots," Microsoft says. Another bonus of the breakthrough is that people interacting with chatbots don't have to use a "wake word" every time they speak during a conversation.
Education

Schools Won't Like How Difficult the New iPad Is To Repair (ifixit.com) 172

Last week, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. iFixit has published its teardown of the device this morning, and as The Verge points out, schools won't like how difficult it is to repair. From the report: The takeaway from all this is that the new iPad isn't going to be any easier to repair than prior generations, which were already borderline unrepairable. If an iPad breaks, there's almost no chance that a district will be able to repair it in-house; whereas on cheaper Chromebooks, there's a possibility an IT team could open them up to make some basic fixes. It's a weak point that it's hard to see Apple ever addressing. And since schools aren't exactly forgiving environments for a lent-out device, how well the iPad holds up to drops and dings, and how expensive it is to fix, are bound to be factors in a school's decision on which devices to adopt. Mac Rumors highlights the key findings from iFixit's teardown: The new iPad's lack of waterproofing, non-replaceable charging port, zero upgradeability, and use of glue throughout the internals added up to a "repair nightmare." iFixit then pointed towards the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 tablet, which got a perfect repairability score of 10 out of 10, summarizing that "Apple's 'education' iPad is still a case of won't -- not can't." One of the iPad's advantages in terms of repairability comes in the form of its digitizer panel easily separating from the display. iFixit pointed out that in the event that either component should break, repair will be easier for schools and educators. The sixth-gen iPad has the same battery as the previous model, with 32.9 Wh capacity. iFixit noted that while this allows Apple to reuse existing manufacturing lines to reduce waste, the battery is still locked behind a "repair-impeding adhesive" that greatly reduced the iPad's repairability score. Apple has provided easy battery removal before, in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but iFixit hasn't seen anything like it since. Ultimately, iFixit gave the 2018 iPad a repairability score of 2 out of 10, favoring the fairly easy repair options of its air-gapped, non-fused display and digitizer glass, but taking marks off for its heavy use of adhesive and sticky tape.
Education

Schools Are Giving Up on Smartphone Bans (gizmodo.com) 117

Bans on phones in schools are increasingly becoming a thing of the past, new research shows. From a report: A survey from the National Center for Education Statistics exploring crime and safety at schools indicates that there is a trend toward relaxing student smartphone bans. The survey reports that the percentage of public schools that banned cell phones and other devices that can send text messages dropped from nearly 91 percent in 2009 through 2010 to nearly 66 percent in 2015 through 2016.

This drop did not coincide, however, with more lenient rules around social media. In 2009 and 2010, about 93 percent of public schools limited student access to social networking sites from school computers, compared to 89 percent from 2015 through 2016. That's likely because these bans aren't lifted in response to student demands to use their electronics during school hours -- they are bending to the pressure of parents who want to be able to reach their kids.

Google

Google is Equipping More Rural School Buses With Wi-Fi and Chromebooks (theverge.com) 59

Google on Monday said it was formally expanding its Rolling Study Halls program, or school buses equipped with WiFi, computers and on-bus educators to help rural students with work beyond school hours. From a report: Google today announced an expansion of its Rolling Study Halls initiative to over 16 additional school districts, giving "thousands" of students access to Wi-Fi and Chromebooks on their buses. Google has piloted the program in North Carolina and South Carolina over the last couple years, focusing its efforts on rural communities where some students have lengthy bus rides between home and the classroom each day.

Providing students with dependable Wi-Fi before and after school is a boon for those who might lack broadband internet at home, giving them two opportunities daily to complete assignments or study for exams while on the bus. Google contributes mobile Wi-Fi routers, data plans, and Chromebook devices.

Education

'Nature' Explores Why So Many Postgrads Have Bad Mental Health (nature.com) 172

An anonymous reader writes: This week Nature tweeted that the rates of depression and anxiety reported by postgraduate students were six times higher than in the general population -- and received more than 1,200 retweets and received 170 replies. "This is not a one dimensional problem. Financial burden, hostile academia, red tape, tough job market, no proper career guidance. Take your pick," read one response. "Maybe being told day in, day out that the work you spend 10+ hrs a day, 6-7 days a week on isn't good enough," said another.

The science magazine takes this as more proof that "there is a problem among young scientists. Too many have mental-health difficulties, and too many say that the demands of the role are partly to blame. Neither issue gets the attention it deserves." They're now gathering stories from postgraduates about mental-health issues, and vowing to give the issue more coverage. "There is a problem with the culture in science, and it is one that loads an increasing burden on the shoulders of younger generations. The evidence suggests that they are feeling the effects. (Among the tweets, one proposed solution to improving the PhD is to 'treat it like professional training instead of indentured servitude with no hope of a career at the end?'.)"

Education

Poor Grades Tied To Class Times That Don't Match Our Biological Clocks (berkeley.edu) 294

An anonymous reader shares a report: It may be time to tailor students' class schedules to their natural biological rhythms, according to a new study from UC Berkeley and Northeastern Illinois University. Researchers tracked the personal daily online activity profiles of nearly 15,000 college students as they logged into campus servers. After sorting the students into "night owls," "daytime finches" and "morning larks" -- based on their activities on days they were not in class -- researchers compared their class times to their academic outcomes. Their findings, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, show that students whose circadian rhythms were out of sync with their class schedules -- say, night owls taking early morning courses -- received lower grades due to "social jet lag," a condition in which peak alertness times are at odds with work, school or other demands. "We found that the majority of students were being jet-lagged by their class times, which correlated very strongly with decreased academic performance," said study co-lead author Benjamin Smarr, a postdoctoral fellow who studies circadian rhythm disruptions in the lab of UC Berkeley psychology professor Lance Kriegsfeld.
The Courts

Coffee Requires Cancer Warning, California Judge Rules (cnbc.com) 330

Scientists haven't rendered a verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you but a California judge has. He says coffee sellers in the state should have to post cancer warnings. From a report: The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing -- like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago -- or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.
Social Networks

US To Seek Social Media Details From All Visa Applicants (bloomberg.com) 287

According to Bloomberg, the State Department wants to require all U.S. visa applicants to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. From the report: In documents to be published in Friday's Federal Register, the department said it wants the public to comment on the proposed new requirements, which will affect nearly 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the U.S. each year. The new rules would apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education, according to the documents. If the requirements are approved by the Office of Management and Budget, applications for all visa types would list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. It would also give the applicant the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed in the application. In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants will be asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities. Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types may be exempted from the requirements, the documents said.
Software

VR Researchers Manipulate Human Visual System To Create An Infinite Corridor In a Fixed Space (roadtovr.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Road to VR: This video showcases a new redirected walking implementation project that creates an "unlimited" virtual corridor in a space just 5 x 7 meters in size. Redirected walking (RDW) is a technique which aims to maximize the physical space of a virtual reality play space by tricking your senses. Or, "strongly modifying spatial perception" so that your mind believes, for example, that you're body is traveling in a straight line where in reality, it's traversing a carefully calculated curved course to keep that play space small. At SIGGRAPH last week, a project developed in part by Unity Product Evangelist and Education Lead Yohei Yanase at the University of Tokyo was present, featuring a new "Visuo-Haptic" VR experience which claims to create the illusion via an infinite virtual corridor within an actual physical play space of just 5 x 7 meters in size.

"It works by strongly modifying spatial perception, all while avoiding the typical "reorientation" manipulation methods that most often cause VR motion sickness," states a press release, "And it's designed to let multiple people experience it simultaneously, without risk of bumping into each other. Modern techniques like this could represent the next phase in VR navigation, merging virtual with physical environments to extend the comfort of VR sessions and extensibility of virtual environments."

Education

Apple Trains Chicago Teachers To Put Coding In More Classrooms (engadget.com) 64

Apple has unveiled a partnership with Northwestern University and public schools to help teachers bring programming and other forms of computer science into Chicago-area classrooms. "The trio will set up a learning hub at Lane Tech College Prep High School that will introduce high school teachers to Apple's Everyone Can Code curriculum," reports Engadget. "They'll also have the option to train in an App Development with Swift course to boost the number of high school-oriented computer science teachers. Teachers will also have options for in-school coaching and mentorship to make sure they're comfortable with the curriculum when they're in front of actual students."
Education

Apple Announces New $299 iPad With Pencil Support For Schools (theverge.com) 141

At its education event in Chicago today, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. "The updated iPad will be available in Apple stores today, in silver, space gray, and a new gold finish," reports The Verge. "The tablet will include Touch ID, an HD FaceTime camera, 10 hours of battery life, an 8-megapixel rear camera, LTE option, and Apple's A10 Fusion chip." From the report: Apple previously lowered the price of its 9.7-inch iPad last year, with a base model starting at $329, but today it's going a step further for students. Apple is offering the new iPad to schools priced at $299 and to consumers for $329. The optional Apple Pencil will be priced at $89 for schools and the regular $99 price for consumers. This is obviously not the $259 budget iPad pricing that was rumored, but it does make it a little more affordable to students and teachers. This new iPad will be a key addition to Apple's lineup as it seeks to fight back against Google's Chromebooks. Apple's iPads and Mac laptops reigned supreme in U.S. classrooms only five years ago, accounting for half of all mobile devices shipped to schools in 2013. Apple has now slipped behind both Google and Microsoft in U.S. schools, and Chromebooks are dominating classrooms with nearly 60 percent of shipments in the U.S. Apple had some other non-hardware, education-themed announcements at its event today. "Apple demonstrated Smart Annotation, which allows teachers to mark up reports in Pages directly, and the company promised new versions of its iWork apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Apple Pencil," reports The Verge. "Teachers will also be able to use Macs to create digital books for their classrooms, and Apple is building a books creator into the Pages app." The company also announced a new augmented reality app called Froggipedia that lets students virtually dissect frogs using an Apple Pencil. The free iCloud offering for students has also been bumped up from 5GB to 200GB.

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