These 1,000 hexagons show how global wealth is distributed

Europe’s economic landscape: an excerpt from the nominal GDP world map.

FRANK JACOBS

A cartogram makes it easy to compare regional and national GDPs at a glance.

  • On these maps, each hexagon represents one-thousandth of the world’s economy.
  • That makes it easy to compare the GDP of regions and nations across the globe.
  • There are versions for nominal GDP and GDP adjusted for purchasing power.
Continue reading… “These 1,000 hexagons show how global wealth is distributed”
0

The plan to turn scrapped rockets into space stations

image

Spent rockets are dangerous space trash, but they could be the future of living and working in orbit.

IN EARLY OCTOBER, a dead Soviet satellite and the abandoned upper stage of a Chinese rocket narrowly avoided a collision in low Earth orbit. If the objects had crashed, the impact would have blown them to bits and created thousands of new pieces of dangerous space debris. Only a few days prior, the European Space Agency had published its annual space environment report, which highlighted abandoned rocket bodies as one of the biggest threats to spacecraft. The best way to mitigate this risk is for launch providers to deorbit their rockets after they’ve delivered their payload. But if you ask Jeffrey Manber, that’s a waste of a perfectly good giant metal tube.

Manber is the CEO of Nanoracks, a space logistics company best known for hosting private payloads on the International Space Station, and for the past few years he has been working on a plan to turn the upper stages of spent rockets into miniature space stations. It’s not a new idea, but Manber feels its time has come. “NASA has looked at the idea of refurbishing fuel tanks several times,” he says. “But it was always abandoned, usually because the technology wasn’t there.” All of NASA’s previous plans depended on astronauts doing a lot of the manufacturing and assembly work, which made the projects expensive, slow, and hazardous. Manber’s vision is to create an extraterrestrial chop shop where astronauts are replaced by autonomous robots that cut, bend, and weld the bodies of spent rockets until they’re fit to be used as laboratories, fuel depots, or warehouses.

The Nanoracks program, known as Outpost, will modify rockets after they’re done with their mission to give them a second life. The first Outposts will be uncrewed stations made from the upper stages of new rockets, but Manber says it’s possible that future stations could host people or be built from rocket stages already in orbit. In the beginning, Nanoracks won’t use the interior of the rocket and will mount experiment payloads, power supply modules, and small propulsion units to the outside of the fuselage. Once company engineers have that figured out, they can focus on developing the inside of the rocket as a pressurized laboratory.

Continue reading… “The plan to turn scrapped rockets into space stations”

0

Experts fear lab-grown brains will become sentient, which is upsetting

093D2336-EF1E-4785-B3E4-75EF3525983A

Well, we don’t want that … or do we?

The idea of sentient, lab-created “organoids” raises ethical questions that ripple through science.

Tests could include physical scans, mathematical models, and more.

Scientists say there are reasons it could be necessary to create consciousness … and destroy it.

A thought-provoking new article poses some hugely important scientific questions: Could brain cells initiated and grown in a lab become sentient? What would that look like, and how could scientists test for it? And would a sentient, lab-grown brain “organoid” have some kind of rights?

Continue reading… “Experts fear lab-grown brains will become sentient, which is upsetting”

0

Reimagining higher education in the United States

 F5690555-6BE7-442D-A227-60ECEF04F564

As education leaders consider their options in the age of the COVID-19 crisis, they must rethink the conventional wisdom.

Higher education in the United States is at an inflection point. The core mission of the university—instruction, research, and service—has not changed. Nor has the need for advanced education to prepare individuals for a fulfilling life and to drive the knowledge economy. For individuals, the economic benefit of earning a college degree remains clear. College graduates are on average wealthier, healthier, and happier over a lifetime.1

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, however, the higher-education sector faced significant challenges. Consider student completion: only 60 percent of all those who started college actually earned a degree within six years in 2017 (the latest year for which data is available). The figures are even worse for Black (39.9 percent) and Hispanic (54.4 percent) students. Other troubling disparities persist. In student enrollment, for example, 69 percent of white high-school graduates enroll in college, compared with 59 percent of Black high-schoolers and 61 percent of Hispanics. Furthermore, the level of student debt is rising, while repayment rates plummet, creating a potentially unsustainable burden for many students.

The pandemic is intensifying these challenges and creating new ones. Students and their families are struggling with the impact of campus shutdowns and questioning whether it is worth it to pay for an on-campus experience when much of the instruction is being done remotely. Under these circumstances, the risk of outcome inequities—from completion to employment to lifetime earnings—could worsen. For example, evidence suggests that lower-income students are 55 percent more likely than their higher-income peers to delay graduation2 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Underpinning all of these challenges is a business model at its breaking point, as institutions face falling revenues and rising health-and-safety costs.

In short, the coronavirus has confirmed the case for fast and fundamental change. It has also demonstrated that change is possible. When the pandemic hit, many US colleges and universities moved quickly to remote learning and other delivery models, launched affordability initiatives, and found creative ways to support their students. Now is the time to build on these lessons to reimagine the next five to ten years and beyond.

Continue reading… “Reimagining higher education in the United States”

0

Sony reveals Spatial Reality Display, a 4K screen with glasses-free 3D

Volumetric 3D displays are neither easy to produce nor common, as holographic imagery generally requires a mix of stereoscopic screen technology and unique optics, sometimes backed by high-speed eye tracking. Today, the display experts at Sony are throwing their hat into the ring with a new option called the ELF-SR1 — also known as the Spatial Reality Display — which is initially being targeted at professional users in content creation businesses, but with an eye towards future use in consumer-facing applications.

Continue reading… “Sony reveals Spatial Reality Display, a 4K screen with glasses-free 3D”

0

The rise of the 3-parent family

829F81F9-872E-4FE2-96C7-66F9B17FEB4F

The typical path to parenthood didn’t work for David Jay, a founder of the asexual movement. So he designed his own household—and is trying to show others what is possible.

David Jay is the oldest of 12 cousins on one side of his family and the third-oldest of 24 cousins on the other. As a kid, family to Jay meant having a lot of people around, a feeling of community, and crucially, a sense of permanence, that these people would always be in his life. Later, as an adult living in collective housing, he could access the feeling of family with those around him, but the permanence was gone. His roommates started finding romantic partners, having children, and dispersing. Jay had always wanted his own family with kids—and had known, for almost as long, that he wouldn’t be able to build one the usual way.

Jay is the founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network and one of the most prominent people in the asexual movement. (Asexual people, or aces, don’t experience sexual attraction, though many do have sex and form romantic relationships.) After starting AVEN as a freshman at Wesleyan University in 2001, Jay spent years explaining asexuality to the public, speaking at events and talking to the press. As he grew older, the questions on his mind moved beyond identity and attraction to issues of parenting and family life.

The problem for Jay was never how babies are made, and fostering and adoption were options. The problem was that he wanted kids and also wanted a co-parent to help him raise kids, but wasn’t interested in romantic partnership. Before exploring single parenthood, he was curious whether there might be another way to form the family he wanted.

Continue reading… “The rise of the 3-parent family”

0

9 soft skills every employee will need in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

933DD2AB-2D51-49A4-97A2-00DFA224BC07

Technical skills and data literacy are obviously important in this age of AI, big data, and automation. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the human side of work – skills in areas that robots can’t do so well. I believe these softer skills will become even more critical for success as the nature of work evolves, and as machines take on more of the easily automated aspects of work. In other words, the work of humans is going to become altogether more, well, human.

With this in mind, what skills should employees be looking to cultivate going forward? Here are nine soft skills that I think are going to become even more precious to employers in the future.

Continue reading… “9 soft skills every employee will need in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)”

0

The surprising upsides of worrying

 88EC81AB-A29D-471D-AFAB-E8A6A981FF63

Anxiety can be exhausting, but there is often a reason for it – and there are some surprising benefits to certain kinds of worrying.

“I’m a near-professional worrier,” admits Kate Sweeny ruefully. She’s struggled for much of her life with anxiety over things she can’t entirely control – including, these days, whether her parents are following social-distancing guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A constant hum of low-grade worry affects many people, but what’s distinct about Sweeny is that it partly motivated her career choices. As a health psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, she specialises in understanding worry and stress.

“Not everybody uses their own life as fodder for research,” she laughs, but she’s found inspiration in her own experiences. One of her surprising findings has been that worrying can be beneficial in a variety of situations, from waiting for exam results to safeguarding health.

Continue reading… “The surprising upsides of worrying”

0

The Event Industry is being confronted by its Napster moment

CE080BC8-3C7D-465F-8C70-364726CBD754

All types of business events are in danger of their revenue streams of tickets, sponsorships, memberships, and other types of fees being eroded. This is happening as the world gets used to digital formats and alternatives emerge to physical networking, matchmaking, and other tasks we get out of these events. The threat sounds familiar?

 

I won’t bury the headline: the vast, global events industry is going through its Napster moment through this pandemic, and is in denial on what this will do to it.

Everything about the underlying economics of this sprawling, diverse, chaotic and highly profitable sector is being undercut by the move to virtual, and 2019 may be the year where the industry’s revenues peaked. This year could be the event industry’s 2000 moment à la what happened to the music industry.

I was there during the music industry’s Napster moment in late ’90s, a cub reporter covering the vast promise of early internet, and wrote hundreds of stories about what happened to labels and the economic structure of music industry and music acts. I wrote about the atomization of the album into singles and the download boom with rise of Apple’s iTunes, and then the start of the streaming boom that led to Spotify and others since.

Continue reading… “The Event Industry is being confronted by its Napster moment”

0

Getting old needs a new look

1FB063E9-1A89-4C9D-8D07-1A73CD480DFD

The pandemic has exacerbated issues like social isolation in U.S. nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. But problems with the living situations of older Americans long predate the coronavirus.

Covid-19 has exposed the lethal vulnerabilities of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Can better design make aging safer?

In at least one way, the United States’s tragic response to the coronavirus hasn’t been an outlier: Just like in the rest of the world, the consequences of the pandemic were amplified inside living facilities for older adults.

As of August 13, at least 68,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus, according to New York Times research, a number that comprises more than 40% of the nation’s total. That percentage that’s been matched or exceeded by other countries across the globe. In Europe, half of all Covid-19 deaths happened in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the World Health Organization. In Canada, which has been far more effective at containing the disease, 82 percent of the country’s deaths have been concentrated among these facilities.

The vulnerability of nursing homes was clear from the earliest stage of outbreak in the U.S., when the disease swept through the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington in February, claiming dozens of deaths. At Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts, at least 74 residents — a third of the facility’s population — died of Covid-19 in April. The summer resurgence of infections has found its way into care facilities in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, bringing the number of cases in nursing homes nationwide above its previous peak in May.

For the entire multibillion-dollar ecosystem of senior living in the U.S. — including the more than 15,000 nursing homes, nearly 29,000 residential care communities, and about the same number of assisted-living facilities — the pandemic is exposing a deadly dilemma at a challenging time. “We weren’t prepared for Covid,” says Dr. Robyn Stone, co-director of LeadingAge LTSS Center at University of Massachusetts Boston. “Nobody was, including the nursing homes.”

Continue reading… “Getting old needs a new look”

0

Why Tokyo’s new transparent public restrooms are a stroke of genius

1DA1FAEC-1E7F-4F2C-827A-0097F3D2A4E4

Tokyo transparent bathroom

At first, it’s hard to fathom how a public restroom with transparent walls could possibly help ease toilet anxiety — but a counterintuitive design by one of Japan’s most innovative architects aims to do just that.

Around the world, public toilets get a foul rap. Even in Japan, where restrooms have a higher standard of hygiene than in much of the rest of the world, residents harbor a fear that public toilets are dark, dirty, smelly and scary.

To cure the public’s phobia, the non-profit Nippon Foundation launched “The Tokyo Toilet Project,” tasking 16 well-known architects to renovate 17 public toilets located in the public parks of Shibuya, one of the busiest commercial areas of Tokyo.

Continue reading… “Why Tokyo’s new transparent public restrooms are a stroke of genius”

0

The 6 unholy AI systems thou shalt not develop

1FC386F9-2F06-4464-B057-6202E3494DAE

TLDR; don’t pretend a Magic 8 Ball is a useful tool for grownups and don’t build hate machines

Artificial intelligence may be the most powerful tool humans have. When applied properly to a problem suited for it, AI allows humans to do amazing things. We can diagnose cancer at a glance or give a voice to those who cannot speak by simply applying the right algorithm in the correct way.

But AI isn’t a panacea or cure-all. In fact, when improperly applied, it’s a dangerous snake oil that should be avoided at all costs. To that end, I present six types of AI that I believe ethical developers should avoid.

Continue reading… “The 6 unholy AI systems thou shalt not develop”

0